Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro City Council passed an emergency ordinance to enter into a purchase agreement for three parcels on West Main Street — including the lot that formerly housed a vacant building that collapsed last summer and two neighboring properties — during a brief special meeting Monday night.

In the 11-minute meeting, held via Zoom, Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha and Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott informed council that the city has acquired the properties that formerly housed Slow and Low Barbeque (119 West Main Street), Bon Appetit Gourmet Shoppe and Gifts (117 West Main Street) and the aforementioned property at 115 West Main Street.

As previously reported, a civil case was filed by the city of Hillsboro against the property owners on June 3, 2019. In September 2019, the city of Hillsboro and the owners of those three properties reached an agreement to accept a bid from Evans Landscaping to demolish the three properties. The demolition began the following month, on Oct. 23, 2019.

In September, then-safety and service director Dick Donley said that the city had negotiated a quitclaim deed from the owner of the former Slow and Low property. Abbott said Monday that the city purchased the property at 119 West Main “for what we had in it with the demolition, which was around $29,000,” and they were also “able to obtain” the 117 West Main Street property from its owner.

According to the ordinance, it is proposed that the city will transfer the three parcels to the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation or the Community Improvement Corporation, which in turn will transfer the parcels to the Arven Group LLC pursuant to their purchase agreement with the city. The HAEDC or CIC will then “collect and disburse the proceeds of sale” back to the city “to be placed in the general fund.”

Harsha said that the developer “wanted to keep anonymous at this point, but I’m sure everybody will know very soon.”

Abbott said that the reason for passing the ordinance as an emergency is because the interested purchaser is “eager to get started, and the city is eager to get funds back invested in properties.” The ordinance says that “all parcels must be acquired in a single transaction pursuant to the developer’s requirements, and that the transactions must be completed shortly to avoid loss of the sale opportunity.”

Harsha told council the city now has “something we can market and develop into something really good for Hillsboro.”

“We wanted to use these properties for economic development,” Abbott said. “We were able to find an investor that is wanting to purchase the properties for what we have in it to develop, which is a wonderful opportunity for the city.”

Council member Ann Morris asked for the “total amount.”

“For all three properties? Just shy of $72,000,” Abbott said.

Council member Brandon Leeth said that he thought “everything’s in a row” for the city to move forward, while council member Patty Day asked if there was a “conflict of interest with people wanting to purchase” the parcels. She said that the company named in the ordinance is an employer of a member of the Hillsboro planning commission and “didn’t know if there would be a conflict or not.”

According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, there are four LLCs using the Arven name registered in the city of Hillsboro, one of which is registered to Robert A. Holt, the chair of the Hillsboro planning commission.

“The deal we have, we’re going to recuperate any money we have invested in these three properties,” Harsha said. “For the city, that’s great to get back the money and it’s a super opportunity to develop downtown.”

Harsha added that he, Abbott, council president Tom Eichinger, public works supervisor Shawn Adkins and city law director Fred Beery are all “very comfortable with the deal.”

“I can’t help but believe it’s going to be a great opportunity for us,” Harsha said.

Day also suggested that if this company is interested in purchasing the lots, “maybe there are others that would give us a profit for same properties.” Morris pointed out that the former BP station property, also on West Main Street, “has been for sale for a very long time and had very little interest.”

Council voted 7-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and 7-0 to pass the ordinance as an emergency.