The City of London wants to buy a long-abandoned church, located near the intersection of Hawthorne and Park avenues. But first, it must determine who owns the property.
Mayor Pat Closser said the city wants to raze the church building and add the .4-acre site to the adjoining municipal swimming pool.
“We want to extend the (pool) fence and create more green space,” he said.
That green space would accommodate a planned sand volleyball court, outdoor shower and possibly a “water feature” where kids and adults could cool off on hot summer days. Water features include the tumble buckets, mushrooms and splash pads that are found at other public pools, Closser added.
While the city doesn’t have purchase money in hand, it does have the promise of cash from a local businessman to complete the sale at a fair price, then make the planned improvements.
Problem is, there’s no legal seller.
Madison County Common Pleas Court records show the Greater Bethel Apostolic Assembly and Bethels Villa, Inc. are owners. But neither are legally registered with the Ohio Secretary of State.
Since 1964, the property has passed through a series of hands. In December that year, the Apostolic Gospel Church titled it to the Bethel Pentecostal Church — also not recognized by the state. In 2002, the Bethel Pentecostal Church passed it to Bethels Villa, Inc., that in turn, passed it to the Greater Bethel Apostolic Assembly in 2007.
In 2010, the state said Bethels Villa, did not exist.
Since the site is no longer used as a church, it became subject to county property taxes, beginning with the 2014 tax year. Tax bills go to a London postal box. The $145.35 due in February was paid, according to the county auditor’s office.
City attorney Jennifer Hitt filed paperwork in June 2017, asking the court to clarify issues with the deed. In the meantime, she’s talking with the Columbus attorney representing the former pastor to resolve ownership without additional legal maneuvering.
“We are attempting to negotiate,” Hitt said.
Without an agreement, it will be up to Judge Eamon Costello to appoint a board — likely made up of the church’s former elders and leaders — to determine true ownership.
“We want to acquire it, but with a clean title,” Hitt added.
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