MANSFIELD — The Richland County Land Bank met the state deadline Tuesday to apply for up to $1.46 million in state funds for demolition and site revitalization.
Its grant application includes several projects around the county, including an abandoned, small former Lutheran Church on Bellville-Johnsville Road; a former gas station at 80 Marion Ave.; the City of Shelby smokestack on Mansfield Avenue; and a vacant property at 120 N. Diamond St.
The Land Bank’s application was for the $500,000 guaranteed in the state biennial budget and an additional $967,950 on a first-come, first-serve basis that board members expressed confidence would be granted.
What the application with the Ohio Department of Development will emphatically not include is a request from Industrial Commercial Properties to help remove a large concrete slab at the former 2.5-million-square-foot General Motors property in Ontario.
ICP Senior Vice President of Development Jeff Martin met with the Land Bank board on Wednesday to ask members if they would agree to resubmit the application to include the multi-million project at the Ontario Commerce Center.
ICP is leading the effort to develop the property and bring more jobs to Ontario. Charter Next Generation opened a specialty bag production operation in 2021 and occupies about 130,000 square feet of the property at 2525 W. 4th St.
The City of Ontario bought the former GM property from the Brownfield Communities Development Company in 2018 after it was originally managed by RACER Trust and the Adler Group.
ICP later entered a development agreement with the city for six acres of the property and the press prep building in 2020.
The Cleveland-based company has worked off and on with the Land Bank over the last couple of years to develop a plan that could lead to ODOD grant money to help with the redevelopment of more of the site.
Richland County Treasurer Bart Hamilton, the chair of the Land Bank, was incredulous at the request.
“We’ve been working on this for over for a year. There’s meetings you guys haven’t showed up to. Every time we’ve tried to do something with you guys, you’ve thwarted it,” Hamilton said.
“And now you come in here the day after we’ve submitted our application and you want us to pull our application to put you in. Are you insane?” Hamilton asked Martin.
“It’s not happening. Why would we do that?” he asked. “I’m going to tell you right now … that (state grant) money is gone. If this (ODOD demolition grant program) works like it did (last year), that money is spoken for.
“I’m going to say something right now. (Ontario) Mayor (Randy) Hutchinson is here. I’m going to say this as Bart Hamilton. Just an individual. I’m not saying this as part of our board,” Hamilton said, turning toward the mayor.
“The best thing you can do is get rid of these people. That is my recommendation to the (Ontario City Council) … to get rid of these people and get us somebody we can work with. Because these guys are not somebody we can work with,” Hamilton said.
Martin, who didn’t bring a confirmed demolition bid to the meeting, said he appreciated Hamilton’s comments and agreed it looked bad he was there the day after the deadline.
“But this program is the perfect program to get rid of the slab and existing conditions,” he said.
Hutchinson said the city would love to have the slab removed, but is not prepared to pay the matching funds the grant requires.
“I know they’ve been working on it for a year. So I rely on the (Land Bank) board,” the mayor said.
Martin said the board’s decision will set the project back.
Hamilton, again, wasn’t interested in hearing it.
“It’s a shame … it’s a shame you set it back,” he said.
Martin said he hoped IPC could work better with the Land Bank in the future.
“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” he said, adding he hoped the meeting was not the tenor of future conversations with the board.
Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero, a Land Bank board member, said ICP had set that tenor.
“You’ve had over a year to submit what (the plan). You come in here and say you have a demolition estimate of $7.1 (million). You don’t have it. It doesn’t include greening (as required in the application process).
“You ‘no-show’ a meeting in which the county was going to work to clean up a site (from) which your company would financially benefit,” Vero said.
“And then you come in here and make a statement that, ‘I hope this isn’t the tenor moving forward.’ If anyone set the tenor it was ICP … period.”
Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.
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