Johnstown Independent

Village outbid in try for 2 acres near rec center

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Johnstown Village Manager Jim Lenner on April 4 tried to bid on property near the recreation center and park, but his bid wasn't high enough to secure the 2 acres.

Village Council on April 1 voted 6-1 to allow Lenner to bid up to $150,000, including taxes and fees, for the property at 186 W. Coshocton St. Councilman Bill Van Gundy was the lone dissenter.

If Lenner had been successful, the purchase could have allowed the village to connect its recreation park and the cemetery, an opportunity, Lenner said, the village has been seeking for a long time.

The property consists of a house on a half-acre plot, as well as the connecting land between the two village properties.

"We've talked about it ever since I started here four years ago," Lenner said. "It's kind of the missing piece to make that one big, continuous park area."

The property was up for auction as part of a Licking County Sheriff's Office sale, and Lenner was unsure of how or why the property had become available.

He said he wasn't certain the village would be able to land the purchase, citing banks and those interested in the house on the property as competitors.

After resident Terry Henson's bid of $125,000, Lenner said, he thought it wasn't worth the increasing price to try to buy the property. Lenner's bid was $50,000.

"The feel of the way the bidding was going and the potential in the future to try and get the three properties we wanted, I felt that where we stopped was ... as much as we could go and still be satisfied with our efforts," he said. "I just felt that's where we needed to stop to be prudent with our money."

Plans for the space had not been drawn, Lenner said, but village officials had plenty of uses in mind, such as newly expanded and connected parks sites. The official resolution for council's vote cited "health, welfare and general needs of the citizens of the village of Johnstown" as purposes.

Despite not winning the property, Lenner said, the village might be able to negotiate with Henson to acquire only the land that would connect the two parks rather than the entire property. He said he doesn't feel disappointed in spending 45 minutes of the village's time to attempt the purchase, though.

"We were there to see if we could get it at a great price," he said. "And we didn't, and that's OK. We'll go on, and it's not a do-or-die situation.

"We didn't have immediate plans for the property, so it's not like we needed it tomorrow," he said. "We were just trying to secure it for the future. Maybe in the future we get it for a better price."

Henson, whose address is listed as Tyler Place in Johnstown, owns Henson Flooring, 12244 Duncan Plains Road, east of downtown Johnstown. He told ThisWeek after the auction that he isn't sure what he'd do with the property but that he has options.

"It's a good purchase for me because I have property all over in Johnstown," Henson said. "And it's a good rental property or whatever I want to do with it at that point."

He said the village hasn't contacted him yet about trying to work out a deal for part of the land to connect the park to the cemetery, but he said he wouldn't be opposed to negotiating.

"There's no reason I couldn't," he said. "But the ball's in their court."

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