SPRINGFIELD TWP. It has been a long time that Springfield Township Trustee Dean Young has been driving by the Starfire Express gas station pledging to get the eye soar taken down.
After 10 years of persistent effort on many people’s part, the unsightly property at 1487 Canton Road, came tumbling down; and BJAMM Environmental Vice President Jason Grecco said it was quite an adventure. It was the first property with underground tanks to be torn down in a Summit County township under the statewide grant application program earmarked for orphaned properties that have tanks in the ground that have documented environmental concerns and that no responsible party can be pursued by the state. Grecco said it took a long time to show there was no responsible party that could be found. The property had to be foreclosed on and “there was a lot of paperwork that took a lot of time,” he said.
The building came down June 6, with the gas pumps and canopy coming down the following day. On June 11, the job of removing the tanks took place and now the property will be tested for contamination before planting grass and making it a useful commercial property once again.
Young began a discussion about the station more than a decade ago. There was an environmental concern that there might be petroleum products leaking into the soil causing contamination. The trustees were reluctant for the township to become the owners because of the liability. Young began approaching government entities to see what could be done.
“Whatever way we went, I was just confronting issues,” Young said.
He persuaded the trustees to hire BJAMM to do preliminary work.
The State of Ohio eventually developed the Abandoned Gas Station Clean Up grant program and that helped in the process. The entities had to go to court to get a search warrant to get on the property for environmental testing. There was a property owner on record but Young said they were uncooperative. They abandoned the station and did nothing to protect the public.
“The property was burdened with substantial back taxes,” he said.
The one tax lean to the federal government was for more than $400,000 and the owners had not been paying real estate taxes.
“We had those leans to be concerned with in addition to the environmental issues,” Young said.
The Summit County Land Reutilization Corporation (SCLRC), commonly known as the Land Bank, got involved about three years ago and did a foreclosure action that cleared the leans and the Land Bank became the owner of the property. Many government entities were involved throughout the years.
Grecco said the Land Bank is the only political subdivision in the State of Ohio that has statutory protection from environmental rules of underground storage tanks. It can buy the properties and the state will not demand it to be cleaned up.
“From an environmental liability perspective, the Land Bank is an important part of a political subdivision in Ohio,” he said.
Trustee Deborah Davis praised Young for his diligence through the years. She gives him the credit for following through and getting this abandoned building down.
The Land Bank owns the property and the agreement was that once the demolition was complete the property would be transferred to the township.
“I express gratitude to the Land Bank to undertake this. It was plowing new territory for them. It took awhile because the steps are filled with technicalities and dealing with environmental issues,” Young said. "We agreed to undertake some of the preliminary expense to gain the property."
The cost to the township was approximately $10,000. Young pointed out that the grant is for up to $250,000 for the project. If there is no contaminated soil, the project should cost about $130,000, with the funds coming from the grant.
“That is a lot of bang for your buck from this grant program,” Young said.
He said the gas station has just been a nuisance and an eye sore and it is on the main corridor of Springfield.
“It affects the image of the community and it should be a productive commercial site," Young said.
With the removal of the dilapidated property, it encourages renewal of the corridor and will produce revenue.