It’s back to the auction block for a West End mansion that’s been stuck in foreclosure limbo since the 2011 imprisonment of its previous owner, developer Justin French.
The 10,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion at 330 Oak Lane is once again listed among properties to be auctioned by Arlington-based Equity Trustees LLC, which was appointed as a substitute trustee in March.
Rockville, Maryland-based BWW Law Group is handling the sale, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. on July 15 on the steps of the Richmond Circuit Court building.
A previous sale had been scheduled last month but was called off in the weeks leading up to it. BWW would not comment at the time as to why that sale was cancelled.
Bayview Loan Servicing is the servicer on the loan, which totals $1.45 million and was originally issued by Virginia Beach-based Resource Bank. The Virginia Beach bank has since been acquired by Fulton Bank in Pennsylvania.
Prior to Bayview, the servicer had been Bank of America. During that time, ALG Trustee handled the last in a string of attempted auctions since 2010, but it cancelled the sale in August 2012.
Bayview is now responsible for conducting the foreclosure and maintenance as part of its servicing role, said Jumana Bauwens, a Bank of America spokeswoman.
Bauwens said several factors have caused the auction process to drag on.
“An earlier foreclosure action had been stopped by a bankruptcy filing in late 2011, and foreclosure was halted again last year for procedural reasons,” Bauwens said in an email.
“During this period, the bank also was taking steps to meet responsibilities, under government and corporate guidelines, to review and exhaust solutions that might avoid foreclosure,” Bauwens said. “With those hurdles cleared, the loan had been referred to foreclosure again shortly before we transferred the servicing rights.”
The duration of the process has frustrated neighbors, who have seen the nearly century-old mansion fall into disrepair in the years since French was sent to federal prison for a massive real estate tax credit scheme. It was condemned by the city late last year, according to a Times-Dispatch report.
The auction saga has also befuddled some observers, including Paul “Chip” Bliley Jr., a Williams Mullen attorney who handles foreclosures and often serves as a substitute trustee. Bliley said a scenario in which the note for the property was transferred back and forth could contribute to the delay, but he said he’s been nonetheless surprised at how long the process has played out.
“I’m baffled,” he said. “For the life of me, I don’t understand why it has taken this long.”
The 2-acre property is located in the Hampton Gardens neighborhood off Patterson Avenue, near its intersection with Willow Lawn Drive. French and his wife Tanya, who are still listed in city records as the owners of the property, purchased the home in 2003 for $1.76 million.
A recent city assessment valued the property at $1.73 million.
French is scheduled to be released from prison in 2027 after a 16-year sentence.
The eight-bedroom, 7½-bathroom mansion was built in 1919 for Abram McClellan, a Richmond businessman. It was designed by Duncan Lee, a well-known Richmond architect of the time, and later served as the home of Douglas Southall Freeman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and onetime editor of the former Richmond News Leader.