Movement on old middle school building?
MOUNT VERNON — It will be at least a month before the fate of the old Mount Vernon Middle School at 301 N. Mulberry St. in known, but demolition is likely in the near future.
The city’s Property Maintenance Appeals Board met Thursday to consider the possibility of condemning the building, as recommended by Property Maintenance Enforcement Officer Greg Bemiller, and ordering it demolished.
Bemiller told the board that since it discussed the building in November of 2017, the owners, Jason and Larry Gunsorek of Columbus, installed a security fence as requested, but have done nothing else since then on the redevelopment project they outlined for the city.
“The building is still unsafe and needs to be condemned and demolished,” Bemiller said.
Local attorney Noel Alden appeared for the Gunsoreks and requested a 30-day delay in considering the demolition order because he had not seen the material that had accompanied the city’s notice to them of the Maintenance Board meeting and a condemnation now would jeopardize a potential agreement they have to sell the building. He said they need the time to “get things moving.”
That potential buyer turned out to be Joel Mazza, who was already attending the meeting because the board was also considering lifting the condemnation and demolition order for his property at 209 W. High St.
Mazza said he plans to demolish the Mulberry Street building, and has been in discussions with Mayor Richard Mavis and Safety-Service Director Joel Daniels about the project. He said that he can have a more complete picture of what they need to do that he can show the board next month.
Phil Lehmkuhl, representing Mazza, explained that issuing a demolition order now might leave too little time to accomplish the demolition before whatever deadline is set.
Among those issues, which cannot be worked out in 30 days, are a performance bond the city will require for the demolition, as well as zoning, water line and curb cut issues.
Daniels said the city’s talks with Mazza had been promising and didn’t see how a 30-day delay would make any difference and he could support the postponement.
The board finally voted 4-0 to table the issue until Feb. 28.
However, also complicating the situation, although not discussed by the board, was the action filed Tuesday by County Prosecutor Chip McConville to begin tax foreclosure proceedings.
Land Bank President Jeff Gottke said he understands the Gunsoreks owe about $20,000 in back taxes and fees to the county and city.
He indicated the Land Bank is interested in acquiring the property, but the question would remain about who would be responsible for the estimated $500,000 cost of demolition.
The city has not wanted to take that route in the past because it would be left with a property that would have the cost of demolition assessed against it, plus the back taxes.
In the case of the old Mazza Restaurant property on High Street, Bemiller told the board that Mazza has installed a roof on the remaining building (the old nail salon) and make structural repairs, so the city should lift the condemnation and demolition order.
The case has been in court the past year and this will resolve the legal action.
Lehmkuhl told the board the lifting of the order will allow a potential tenant to sign an agreement and begin renovations.
Mazza said he should be able to announce what is being done with the property in the near future.
City Council member Mike Hillier asked whether anything could be done if the development of the building didn’t occur as promised and Law Director Rob Broeren explained that if circumstances require it, Bemiller could bring the building back to the attention of the board.