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Judge Allows Strawberry Park to Open April 1

March 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A court ruling Thursday (March 10) has eased concerns about the April 1 opening and continued operation of the 160-acre Strawberry Park Resort Campground in Preston, Conn.

TD Bank, which purchased the campground for $8 million during a foreclosure auction last month, has agreed to put aside $135,000 to allow Florida-based Elite Resorts to pay for operating expenses, which includes $50,000 to book bands for the popular annual Zydeco and Bluegrass festivals, the Norwich Bulletin reported.

Elite was appointed as the receiver and has been running the campground since the lucrative and award-winning facility fell into bankruptcy. TD Bank, the campground’s biggest creditor at $8.5 million, had already put up $100,000 for the continued operation.

Attorney Raymond Baribeault Jr., who represents Elite, said the campground already has taken in reservation money for the season, but Elite was hesitant to use the money in the event someone with a rental deposit wanted their deposit.

“I want the public to know their money is safe,” Judge James J. Devine said after his ruling.

TD Bank has made no public statement about its plans for the campground, which by some estimates generates $3.4 million a year.

Final approval of the sale to TD Bank is set to be heard in court later this month.

Preston Strawberry Funding Associates LLC, who claims $3.8 million against the property for a defaulted loan, has filed a motion to collect collateral in the form of personal property and perhaps even the name of the campground, for later collection.

Owners hire lawyer

Meanwhile, a group of the 189 site owners at the campground has hired an attorney to look after its interests.

David Schmitt and Gene Burch, present during Thursday’s proceeding in New London Superior Court, said they own four sites, equaling a nearly $500,000 investment between the two of them.

“We’ve retained a law firm to protect and preserve our rights as owners,” Schmitt said.

Site owners, who pay about $1,640 per year for maintenance of their properties, said the value of their sites is closely linked to the health of the campground itself.

“If the property is not maintained properly, we all lose,” Schmitt said.

Both Schmitt and Burch said they were optimistic about the future.

“It’s a good, viable, long-standing campground,” Burch said.

“We feel it will eventually turn out OK,” Schmitt said. “We just have to get over the speed bumps.”

Strawberry Park’s former owner and founder, Hyman Biber, blamed in court documents for running the business into debt, also was in court Thursday, but declined comment.

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