Foreclosures soared in La Plata County in 2008 to a level not seen in more than 20 years.The county recorded 148 foreclosure filings in 2008, double the 74 filings seen the previous year. It was the most foreclosures filed in the county since 1987, when 149 foreclosures were filed.
The high number of foreclosures indicates that La Plata County is not immune to the economic distress seen across the nation.
Other indicators also showed signs of the recession: Unemployment locally rose from 3.5 percent in October to 4 percent in November. That was still significantly below the statewide unemployment rate, which increased from 5.3 percent in October to 5.7 percent in November.
While the number of La Plata County foreclosures in 2008 was high by historical standards, it was insignificant when compared with foreclosures on the Front Range.
The 12 most populous counties in Colorado account for about 95 percent of all foreclosures in the state, and counties with high foreclosure rates tend to be restricted to the Front Range, the Colorado Division of Housing said in a recent report.
La Plata County saw one foreclosure for every 992 households during the first three quarters of 2008, one of the best rates in the state. Adams County was the worst, with one foreclosure for every 58 households. Denver County was next, with one foreclosure for every 73 households.
Of the 148 foreclosures in 2008, 28 have gone to sale and 38 were withdrawn.
"The rest are pending," said county Treasurer Ed Murray, whose office handles foreclosure filings.
Each year, many foreclosures are withdrawn before the property is sold at auction.
Several prominent local properties were involved in foreclosure proceedings last year, including:The Lofts at 1201, a 60,000-square-foot mixed-use development at 12th Street and Main Avenue in downtown Durango. The Caver family and Edward O. Sittner Jr. of Las Vegas are embroiled in a legal dispute concerning the project.
Four properties in Ludington Meadows, a residential subdivision along U.S. Highway 160 east of Durango. An original partner in the project, Rodney M. Ludington Sr., has said he was "caught up in a building bust." The foreclosures involved loans from IndyMac, the failed lender. In September, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's Tierra Group stepped in to purchase the properties for more than $1.2 million.
A home at 580 Lake Purgatory Drive, south of Durango Mountain Resort, was in foreclosure proceedings with a $1.49 million outstanding principal. The home was built in 1997, according to county records. Don J. Davis is the grantor, and Wells Fargo Bank is the lender.
Properties adjacent to Twin Buttes, the recently approved west Durango subdivision, also are in foreclosure proceedings. The vacant land is owned by the Rasdall family of Kansas under the auspices of San Juan Industries LLC. The Rasdalls' real estate agent has attempted to interest the city of Durango in buying the property to preserve it as open space.
Compared with the first three quarters of last year, total 2008 filings statewide for the period increased 3 percent, while foreclosure sales dropped 14 percent. The state report said that changes in state law "artificially depressed" the number of foreclosure filings and sales in 2008.
On the bright side, some help - to the tune of $34 million - is on the way. Federal officials approved Colorado's request for a grant to help the state recover from the effects of high foreclosures and declining home values, Gov. Bill Ritter's office announced Tuesday.
The funds will allow communities to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that might otherwise become sources of abandonment and blight, Ritter's office said.
"Foreclosed and abandoned properties are often targets for vandalism and other types of criminal activity," Ritter was quoted as saying in a news release.
"Having these (federal) funds available to help distressed communities is important to keeping these communities stable and safe for the long-term."