MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Municipal Planning Commission approved a lot split Monday contingent on a maintenance agreement that keeps ownership of a stormwater system private.

The commission approved a lot split that separates a 12-acre parcel from Knox Village Square strip mall at 1500 Coshocton Avenue. The split allows Rural King to purchase the property it currently rents from the strip mall owner, Regency Commercial Associates.

The commission approved the split contingent on an operation and maintenance agreement (OM) with the city that says Rural King will be taking over the care of stormwater retention ponds located on the property. They will also be responsible for the upkeep of the ponds going forward.

The ponds were built as part of the stormwater retention system for the strip mall. It is a private system, and the OM will see to it that the system will stay private and its upkeep maintained by the owner, City Engineer Brian Ball said.

The commission made it clear Monday that they would not approve the lot split unless an OM was in place. The contingency vote means the split will not go through until the OM is signed.

The upkeep of the ponds has been neglected by Regency for at least a year. Regency Senior Vice President Jim Wittman said Regency has hired a contractor to clean out the ponds, as well as fix a sinkhole around a manhole. Wittman said Regency received a complaint from the city over a year ago, but the complaint never reached the right people.

Though Rural King has not yet signed the OM, Wittman said he has received confirmation that they will sign.

In the OM, the city also asked for access to the ponds, at least one of which is closed off by fences and gates. The ponds are located in front of, and behind, Rural King.

Wittman said the ongoing repairs to the ponds will be completed by Regency, whether the sale goes through before they are finished or not. Rural King hopes to close by Dec. 15, Wittman said.

The agreement is the kind the city likes to see when it comes to private systems. It comes after the city-backed off an attempt to fix the Cattleman’s Dam off Yauger Road, then bill back property owners for the cost of the repairs. Though built as part of a private stormwater retention system, the ownership of the Cattleman’s Dam is in contention.

Though the ownership of the system at the strip mall was never in question, the OM states who the owner is, and that the owner is responsible for maintenance. The city still can go in and fix the ponds if necessary, and bill back the cost to the owner, City Law Director Rob Broeren said.

The OM with Rural King is pretty much standard, Ball said.

The lot split separates Rural King from the 30-acre strip mall. Rural King’s store is part of a contiguous building of seven storefronts. Rural King will have access to the main driveway off Coshocton Avenue, and Regency will continue to maintain the drive. The sale does not affect the other storefronts.

The strip mall currently has two vacancies after JCPenney and Pat Catan’s moved out recently. Wittman said there are parties ready to sign for both storefronts, but declined to name them.

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Nick Sabo: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter,