White House Inn foreclosure granted
NEWFANE- Windham Superior Court Judge John Treadwell granted Robert Grinold's motion for summary judgment to foreclose on the Hermitage's White House property at a hearing on Tuesday, May 15.
“The court has reviewed the motion and the response (from the Hermitage) and it does not appear there are any facts in dispute,” Judge Treadwell said. “As the court has reviewed the motion, (Grinold) is clearly entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
The hearing on Grinold's motions was one of three held in Windham Superior Court Tuesday, and the only one at which the Hermitage was represented by counsel. Judge Treadwell noted that both of the motions had been filed several weeks ago, but had been held up thanks to the “tortured procedural history” of the case.
Grinold filed for foreclosure against James Barnes and White House by Hermitage LLC in May 2017. According to the foreclosure suit, Grinold accepted a mortgage deed and promissory note for $1.4 million on the White House property in June 2015. According to an affidavit filed in August 2017, Barnes and the White House were in default of the mortgage terms, and owed $1,371,692 in principal and interest.
The hearing also addressed an emergency motion made by Grinold last week to appoint a receiver to care for the property during the foreclosure process. In an affidavit filed with his motion, Grinold indicated that the motion was prompted by information that the Hermitage had failed to maintain insuring the property. In the motion, Grinold asked the court to appoint his son, Adam Grinold, as receiver. Adam Grinold, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and a local business owner, also owns and manages several properties in Wilmington. And, as Robert Grinold pointed out in testimony on Tuesday, Adam Grinold grew up at the White House, managed the inn for several years, and currently lives across the road from the property.
Under questioning by his attorney, David Dunn, Robert Grinold said that he had eventually been able to obtain insurance on the White House property, but added that he believed it would be significantly less expensive if the property was under receivership and occupied by a caretaker.
Dunn asked Grinold if there had been any discussions with Barnes regarding the insurance issue. “Yes, he knocked on my door at 6 pm last night, and offered to take an employee he has living in a different inn, and move him in there so insurance would be available,” Grinold said. “He said he hoped to get the money in a couple of months, and wanted to delay (the foreclosure). I told him that I didn't appreciate that he let the insurance lapse without bringing it to my attention.”
Grinold said he “wasn't too interested” in Barnes' offer. “I said I don't want to do that, there have been quite a lot of delays already.”
Grinold said he was also concerned about a number of “deferred maintenance” issues at the property. “I live in town and have a maintenance garage on the other side of (the White House),” he said. “I go by it six or seven times a day. Sometimes I go through to make sure nobody is loading up trucks. There are several things, a 3-foot by 5-foot spot of missing shingles. The rose arbor is gone – it was neglected and blew down partially this winter, then they took the rest and threw it away.”
Grinold said the Hermitage had failed to clean up after winter plow damage, including raking the edges of the driveways and parking lots and replacing divots in the lawn.
“Has any personal property disappeared?” asked Dunn.
“An emergency generator that was there is no longer there,” Grinold said. “And we had a groomer for the sledding hill, and that's missing.”
Judge Treadwell questioned the propriety of appointing Grinold's son as receiver. “I understand that (Adam Grinold) would certainly have the appropriate qualifications,” Treadwell said. “However, the role of a receiver is to act as an agent of the court, and the receiver's only interest in the property flows through the court. The court is concerned about a perception that could exist.”
Dunn said that Grinold suggested his son because of his familiarity and experience with the property, both of which would reduce the cost of receivership. “But if the court is concerned about the neutrality issue, the court could appoint a receiver conditioned on us presenting one that's acceptable.”
Although the Hermitage opposed the motion to appoint a receiver, Hermitage attorney Robert Fisher said that if the court decides to grant the motion, the Hermitage would be in favor of Adam Grinold's appointment. “Looking from my client's pocketbook, the appointment of Adam Grinold would be less expensive than a management company,” he said. “While we acknowledge the court's concerns about divided loyalties, we think Adam has the experience to see that difference and protect the property. If the court is going to appoint a receiver, our position is that Adam Grinold would be acceptable for that.”
Judge Treadwell said he would take the receivership motion “under advisement” and issue a decision at a later date. No decision had been issued as of press time Thursday, May 17.