By Linda Cicoira
The Whispering Pines in Tasley was once a booming motel and restaurant, where the Glen Miller Band played, Walter Cronkite dined, and in later years — about three decades ago — Diana Ross lunched on Asian fare, while she considered purchasing property on Cedar Island.
Those days are long gone. Now the site includes charred ruins of an infamous arson spree, abandoned and deteriorating buildings with collapsing roofs, rotting mattresses, scattered insulation, mold growth, peeling paint, and piles of trash.
The site is dangerous, has become a place where vagrants congregate, is a local blight, and it is the topic of scorn in www.youtube.com videos.
But all that could change in the up-coming months.
Accomack County auctioned the property in 2012 for $28,000 in an at-tempt to collect around $35,000 in back real estate taxes. The sale fell through when it was realized that the owners of Whispering Pine Inc., and president Dusan Bratic, of Dillsburg, Pa., had filed for bankruptcy.
Years passed, nothing changed, and the condition of the buildings worsened. The corporation had not put the property up for sale. It had not remedied the situation either.
But recent days have brought a brighter outlook. Accomack County Attorney Cela Burge and Treasurer Dana Bundick asked the U.S. District Court in Middle Pennsylvania (through an-other attorney) to allow them to “exercise any rights … under real estate collection laws.” Chief Bankruptcy Judge Robert N. Opel II signed an order al-lowing the action earlier this month despite the bankruptcy status.
“There was an opportunity for comments until Nov. 27,” Burge said Tuesday. “None were received.” Burge said Bundick will have to determine whether to proceed directly with a tax sale or to get the property cleaned up before selling.
Bundick said she would not be in charge of a cleanup. That would be up to the county. “The sale would hopefully be held in the next couple of months,” she added.
According to the court request, the property is valued at $232,500. The county’s current claim against the corporation is $49,976.32. Business Loan Center’s claim is $182,939.
David Elliott, of Bloxom, was the winning bidder at the previous auction. He planned to demolish the old buildings. He was not available for comment at press time Thursday.
The Whispering Pines was built in 1932 by Charles F. Russell and was run by the Russell family for more than 40 years. The Russells reportedly sold it in 1972.
The motel is listed as the 66th arson in a spree on nearly 80 arsons reported in Accomack during a 144-day period between late 2012 and early 2013.
By Linda Cicoira