NORWOOD, Ohio — A failed condominium project in Norwood has caught the attention of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Legacy Lofts was a $12 million development that aimed to make the century-old Norwood Baptist Church the centerpiece of a 112-unit condo community.
As WCPO has previously reported, the project faltered when developer Scott Call was unable to secure financing. He left town without refunding about $60,000 in deposits paid by would-be condo buyers. An expert on Ohio condominium law, attorney Jim Matre said the deposits should have been held in escrow. But Matre also said it will be difficult for individual depositors to collect refunds if they pursue lawsuits on their own.
Yost, Ohio’s chief legal officer, said he learned of the controversy when he read WCPO’s report. Although there isn’t a formal investigation, Yost is eager to learn more about the project to see if his office has jurisdiction to recover lost deposits.
“We are asking anyone that may have put a deposit down and didn’t get what they thought they were supposed to get to contact our office and file a complaint,” Yost said. “We will review those complaints and work on them.”
Yost said three people have filed complaints so far. Call’s attorney said 12 to 15 depositors are still owed about $60,000 in refunds.
“What I have heard so far is very disturbing,” Yost said. “It’s the kind of thing that your average person doesn’t really have the tools to be able to make it right. But it’s enough money that they shouldn’t have to just shrug and say, ‘Well I guess I made a bad deal.’ People need to be held accountable in the marketplace and we’re going to work hard to make that happen.”
Those who want to file a complaint about Legacy Lofts can call the Ohio Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 1-800-282-0515 or visit the website www.ohioprotects.org.
Attorney Brian O’Connell told the WCPO I-Team Monday that Call is working to repay depositors within 90 to 120 days. He said Call closed on a real estate transaction in North Carolina Friday that will lead to $1,000 payments to all depositors this week.
Monica Brown is skeptical that she’ll ever see a payment.
“He’s a liar," Brown said. "He cheats. He tells you promises."
Brown has been trying to collect refunds for months on deposits her son and a family friend made. Although she has received partial payment, she filed a small-claims lawsuit against Call on Feb. 6 seeking $6,000 in damages. She’s one of three people who filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office.
Brown’s lawsuit is scheduled for a March 13 hearing. Two other cases have resulted in default judgments against Call totaling $10,500. A fourth case is scheduled for trial on April 15 while a fifth case was dismissed on March 1. Magistrate Richard Bernat ordered Kathleen Slone’s demand for $3,250 dismissed, citing her “failure to prosecute” the case.
Although it hasn’t taken any legal action, Norwood City Schools also “feels harmed by Mr. Call’s actions,” wrote William M. Deters II, an attorney for the school district. Responding to WCPO’s questions about Legacy Lofts, Deters said the district agreed to sell its vacant Allison Elementary School buildings to Call for $400,000 because the project would have “saved a historic building and provide needed upscale housing opportunities in the city of Norwood.”
Deters said the school board agreed to let Call enter the building o work with professional designers, contractors and prospective buyers and was “very frustrated” that Call failed to deliver on his promises.
“A repurposing of this building would save the taxpayers,” Deters wrote. “In the event the board cannot find a buyer for the building, it could result in being demolished. Demolition of an older structure such as a school building can be expensive due to the environmental abatements required.”