Foreclosing Bank, Rockland Trust, Takes Stone House Inn in Little Compton, RI with $3.3 M Bid
Christine Dunn | The Providence Journal, R.I. | May 17, 2014 1:00am
May 17--LITTLE COMPTON -- A foreclosure auction held Friday for the historic Stone House inn, at 122 Sakonnet Point Rd., ended with a representative of the foreclosing bank, Rockland Trust Co., taking the property with a $3.3-million bid.
The winning bidder, Virginia Norkevicius, a senior vice president at the Massachusetts bank, declined comment about the bank's plans for the property now that the former owner, Stone House LLC, is out of the picture.
The auction was delayed from its scheduled 11 a.m. start, when auctioneer Dean Ponte said he would wait several minutes for a "qualified bidder" to arrive.
Several minutes later, a woman talking on a cellphone arrived. She refused to comment and later bid $1 million for the Stone House after the auction began, but she immediately dropped out when Norkevicius countered with a $3.1-million bid. Norkevicius then raised her bid to $3.3 million. With no other bids, the auction was over.
About 30 people gathered on the dandelion-covered lawn of the c. 1854 Stone House, including curious local residents, business people and a Tiverton man, Jose Aguiar, who said he had worked as the caretaker there for years until he was let go on Valentine's Day by Ron Lavoie, who Aguiar said was the general manager at the time.
Aguiar said he was hoping that he might be hired back by a new owner because he has been out of work since February.
Another onlooker was James Moore, a Realtor and member of the local family that owned the inn for years and sold it in 2007 to new owners, who invested in a multimillion-dollar renovation of the inn and c. 1870 barn next door.
At the time, Little Compton residents Craig Pishotti and Zachary Miller, partners in Goosewing Hotels and Resorts, said they bought the Stone House from the Moore family in 2007 for $5.4 million.
But Pishotti said in an interview with The Providence Journal this week that Thomas J. Zaccagnino, of Massachusetts, a Yale University graduate and former director of 38 Studios LLC, was the "money man" and "equity partner" who "made all the decisions" about the Stone House project.
Records at Town Hall show that Zaccagnino was the manager of Stone House LLC and signed multiple loan documents for the property, beginning in 2007. The Town Hall records don't reflect the 2007 sale of the inn because it was Stone House LLC that changed hands, and until Friday, Stone House LLC owned the 2.7-acre property.
In December 2009, a few months after the refurbished Stone House reopened, Zaccagnino fired Pishotti and Miller, who together had done "all the work" to restore it, Pishotti said.
"We have had no ability to impact the success in any way" since that time, said Pishotti, who now lives and works in Louisville, Ky. Pishotti said he is not sure if he is still entangled legally in the failed operation. Miller, when contacted by The Journal, refused comment.
Zaccagnino, who is now a managing partner at Cambridge Energy Holdings LLC, in Massachusetts, could not be reached for comment.
Although there are multiple loan records for the property on file at Little Compton Town Hall, Friday's foreclosure auction was based on a defaulted $5.8-million first mortgage held by Rockland Trust, according to Providence lawyer Edward G. Avila, the foreclosing attorney for the bank. Avila said the Town of Little Compton was also owed $32,000 or $33,000 in real-estate taxes.
Edward Sanderson, executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, said the Stone House renovation project was approved for $10.8 million in qualified rehabilitation expenses, meaning that the state Division of Taxation may have approved as much as 22 percent of that sum, $2,376,000, in state historic tax credits (25 percent of qualified expenses less a 3-percent state fee) before the General Assembly suspended that tax-credit program in 2008.
Sanderson said Stone House LLC later reported rehabilitation costs of $18,518,764 for the project, but because the approval was based on the $10.8-million figure, their tax credits would have been based on that lower number.
Neil Downing, chief revenue agent for the Rhode Island Department of Revenue's Division of Taxation, said he could not comment on the Stone House tax-credit award. He explained that the department treated the tax credits issued before the program's suspension in 2008 as confidential information.
(In a change, information about the $34.5 million in historic tax credits awarded via lottery last year under the revived program is published on the tax division's website once contracts are signed with developers.)
Pishotti said he "may have introduced Corso to Zaccagnino," referring to Michael Corso, the Providence lawyer and tax credit broker. "Corso was the tax-credit guy," Pishotti said. "He was the one who got it all coordinated with (former House Speaker Gordon) Fox."
Corso was also hired by 38 Studios to act as its intermediary with government agencies and public officials.
Pishotti said they met at the former Tazza Caffe in Providence, which was owned by Corso, "many, many times." (The Tazza Caffe closed at the end of 2013, when Cornish Associates did not renew the lease).
Avila said he does not know who owns or is in charge of Stone House LLC today. "There are a lot of parties involved," he said.
Stone House LLC filed a 2013 annual report identifying Scott DiGiacomo as the "authorized person" and Round Pond Management Corp. as the manager. The president of Round Pond Management is DiGiacomo, of 13 Tyler Rd., Derry, N.H., and the vice president and director of operations is Ron Lavoie, 9 Lakeview Court, Hillsboro, N.H.