Wednesday, September 13, 2000

UDF offers to buy seized site

Current business owners angry at move

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGDALE — United Dairy Farmers has offered to pay Springdale $550,000 for land abutting its property that the city seized from a property owner who didn't want to sell.

        That has angered small-business owners who will be forced to move in less than two months from stores they have occupied for decades.

        “They took my livelihood,” said Carl Baker, owner of Kemper TV & VCR Service. “I think the city took it for a profit. The city really screwed us.”

        Springdale acquired the property near Ohio 4 and West Kemper Road as part of an urban renewal project approved by City Council.

        A city consultant determined that five stores and two houses owned by Sam Burns were blighted, and the city filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court seeking to acquire the property. Judge Mark Schweikert agreed last year the city could buy the land, and a jury last June awarded Mr. Burns $501,500 for the property.

        Mr. Burns, a former schoolteacher who now lives in Port Charlotte, Fla., is upset that the city has to pay only $501,500 for the same land UDF has offered to acquire for $550,000.

        Mr. Burns will attend a court hearing today to determine how much he will have to share with businesses leasing space from him. “They're treating me like a second-class citizen,” said Mr. Burns, 77, a decorated World War II veteran. “The constitution guarantees the right to own property, and they take it away from me through deception.”

        City Administrator Cecil Osborn confirmed that UDF, which operates a store on a lot next to Mr. Burns' property, offered to buy the property. He doesn't recall the specific date UDF made the offer, but he said it was “about the same time” Springdale City Council agreed to condemn Mr. Burns' land.

        “We have talked with several developers,” Mr. Osborn said.

        But he admitted UDF is the only one to make an offer.

        Mr. Osborn emphasized the city hasn't decided whether to sell to UDF. Any plan would have to conform with the Springdale Pike Corridor District plan developed since 1997 as a way to sustain the city's original village core.

        UDF wants to expand and remodel its store abutting Mr. Burns' property, Mr. Osborn said. Officials of UDF did not return phone calls seeking comment.

        The Norwood-based chain, owned by the family of Robert Lindner, earlier this year said it wanted to add 25 to 40 new stores over the next three years. It also unveiled a plan to bring Exxon Mobil brand gasoline to 108 stores in Ohio and Northern Kentucky.

        Subway, Kemper TV & VCR Service, Corky's Barber Shop and La Placita Imports are the businesses that still occupy the property formerly owned by Mr. Burns. Corky's has been there the longest, leasing its space more than 25 years.

        They businesses said they have received notices to vacate by Oct. 31.

        Mr. Baker, who leased space from Mr. Burns for 15 years, said he will go out of business. He said he can't find a commercial space in Springdale that has lease rates nearly as cheap as Mr. Burns'.

        “I'm out of business,” Mr. Baker said. "'I don't have the money to relocate.”

        Irene Spektor, who owns Alterations of Springdale, said she decided to relocate her business last December because of the uncertainty caused by Springdale's condemnation. She moved across the street to a retail space on Ohio 4 and pays a monthly rent of nearly $1,500. She paid $930 a month for a similar-sized space leased from Mr. Burns.

        “It was a nice location, but we had our problems,” Mrs. Spektor said of Mr. Burns' property. Because he lives in Florida, she said, he was slow to respond to complaints.

        Mr. Osborn said Mr. Burns' property violated several building codes over the years. Mr. Osborn also said Mr. Burns reneged on an earlier agreement to sell the land.

        Mr. Burns said the only code violation he was aware of was chipped, faded paint on the exteri or of his buildings. He repainted the buildings and thought the problem was solved.

        He added that he never was offered enough money for his property.

        “The one thing I want to know is, where is the urban blight?” said James Flannery, who helps with Mr. Baker's repair business. “The buildings are painted. The (exterior) signs are in good shape. I just don't see it.”


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