By BRIAN BOHNERT
A Fostoria nonprofit hopes to put the site of a 2008 fire to productive use by attempting to consolidate ownership of the downtown lot.
Last week, a member of Community Improvement Corporation, a 501(c)(3) branch of Fostoria Economic Development Corporation, sent a letter to owners of property that is now a grass lot at East Tiffin and South Main streets about possibly donating their parcels of land to the organization.
Mayor Eric Keckler said the plan was to reassemble the ownership of the downtown block into a single entity so the city could potentially use the land for the purpose of economic development.
Keckler said there are no plans to use the lot as anything more than a green space, but having all parcels under one ownership would make future ventures a possibility.
“With several different owners, it would be kind of difficult to do anything to improve that portion of downtown,” Keckler said. “I think the original idea was just to see if all of the owners would be interested in donating to CIC.”
The buildings that once occupied the grassy space were torn down six years ago after a massive structure fire on Feb. 27, 2008 caused irreparable damages. Since then, the city has used the empty lot for various downtown festivals and celebrations such as Fostoria’s recent SummerFest.
In a letter sent to one of the landowners, Keith Owen, CIC Treasurer Ron Burns offered to purchase his parcel of land for $1 and a tax-deductible charitable gift receipt worth $5,279. According to the letter, the tax-assessed value of Owen’s 112 E. Tiffin St. property, based on Seneca County tax records, is $5,280.
Additionally, CIC offered to eliminate Owen’s “ongoing property tax and insurance liability” associated with the property, “as well as the accrued expense of mowing, and snow removal and maintenance.”
In a Monday interview with the Review Times, Owen said he is insulted over the group’s offer and is now prohibiting the city from using his property unless he is paid $5,500 for the lot.
“That’s what I paid for it when it was a building,” he said. “All I want is to recoup my investment.”
Since 2008, Owen said his property has been available to the city as long as crews maintain the lot by cutting grass and removing snow during the winter. That verbal agreement changed Friday when he said he received the letter “implying” he owes the city for absorbing “the cost of snow removal and mowing of this property for the last six years.”
“If they have problems cutting my grass once a month, stay off my property,” Owen said. “I’ll cut it myself; I don’t have a problem with that … To insinuate they’ve maintained my property for six years is a joke.”
Keckler said the request by CIC was not meant to cause any “undue pressure” but to just present an opportunity for open dialogue with the property owners. He said it was a simple, “yes or no” question that got out of hand.
“If the answer was ‘no,’ it was no; if it was ‘yes,’ then let’s talk about it and get some dialogue going,” he said. “Nobody was trying to cheat anybody or anything. It was just a simple, straightforward request to gauge the interest of the owners.”
As of Monday evening, FEDC President Renee Smith said she has not yet received responses from the other landowners. According to the letter sent from Burns to Owen, anyone interested in the transaction is asked to contact FEDC at 419-435-7789 by Aug. 1.
The Seneca County Auditor’s Office lists the owners of the nine parcels of land on the grass lot as:
• 114 E. Tiffin St. — Mundy Limited
• 112 E. Tiffin St. — Keith and Tracy Owen
• 106 E. Tiffin St. — KCKS Holdings LLC.
• 126 S. Main St. — KCKS Holdings LLC.
• 124 S. Main St. — Timothy Runion
• 122 S. Main St. — Kevin Williams
• 120 S. Main St. — Alan and Teri Kaminsky
• 118 S. Main St. — Community Improvement Corporation
• 116 S. Main St. — Community Improvement Corporation
The former owner of 118 and 116 S. Main St. transferred the properties to Community Improvement Corporation Nov. 24, 2008 at no cost to CIC, according to Seneca County auditor records.
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