East Liverpool CIC Nixes Sale of Riverview Florist Site

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – A proposal to sell the former Riverview Florist property to a Georgia developer was nixed Monday by the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corp.

During a meeting Monday afternoon, the vote was 8-6 against the proposal by Riverview Equity LLC to purchase the property for $500,000 cash. The CIC acquired the 85-acre property in 2013 with the intent to redevelop it.

Voting against the sale were members CIC Executive Director Bill Cowan, President Patrick Scafide, city law director Charles Payne, Jim Swoger, Scott Shepherd, Lisa Blasdel, Connie Javens and Tom Clark. Among those in favor of the sale were Mayor Greg Bricker and city council members Ray Perorazio and Ernest Peachey.

The motion to accept the offer from John R. Woomer, manager of Riverview Equity, was made by member Al Fricano, who moved to approve the sale while working through several pending issues pertaining to the offer, including adding a provision to prohibit de-annexation of the property and to make sure proper zoning is in place prior to completion of the sale.

Prior to making his motion, Fricano read from a prepared statement regarding the proposal in which he outlined possible uses for the property, which he said could create upwards of 800 jobs. Fricano said after the meeting he had received an email previously from Woomer containing this information which had been shared with CIC members.

He pointed out that Riverview Equity has two publicly traded companies, both with distribution centers which will provide between 400 and 500 jobs. Fricano also referred to a light industrial company requiring two buildings and a warehouse totaling 35,000 square feet and 325 anticipated jobs; one medical production company with expected job growth of 100; two service-oriented oil and gas businesses with 70 possible jobs. The main building on Parkway, he added, will house retail shops and a restaurant/brewery, creating 20 jobs.

“We are looking at the possibility of 800 jobs when fully developed. At $15 an hour wages, with a 40-hour work week, that is $30,000 per employee [in wages],” Fricano said. “At 1.5% city income tax, the city would collect $450 in taxes per employee. This would provide the city with additional operating revenue of approximately $360,000 per year, not counting the taxes the businesses the would pay.”

Over the years, Fricano said, the CIC has worked to improve the city but successes have been in “baby steps.” He referred to an electric car company that wanted the property gifted to it for paper stock and the promise of jobs, noting. “The company was not a viable entity,” he said.

Recently, the CIC has spent thousands of dollars on appraisals, Fricano said, boarding up buildings it has obtained and purchasing property at sheriff’s sales and was, during the same meeting, voting on whether to spend $30,000 on another sheriff’s sale and demolition costs.

“Although these are worthwhile projects, I don’t believe they have created jobs,” Fricano said, also saying the CIC has an obligation to the citizens of East Liverpool to improve the economic condition of the city.”

In supporting the motion, Councilman Perorazio recalled his time heading the city’s fire department, where he served as a firefighter for 20 years.

“When someone gave us a proposal, we built on it, we didn’t just throw it away if we didn’t like it. I accepted this one with the conditions to be fixed,” he said. “I don’t know how we will ever get anything done if we throw (proposals) away every time and start over again.”

Perorazio said he did not believe that, by approving the motion as made, the CIC was accepting the proposal as it exists. He said he is adamant a provision be added that the property is not de-annexed.

He also said he is concerned that whatever is paid for the property “doesn’t end up in the (city’s) general fund,” since the money could “go a long way toward cleaning up the town.”

Asked after the meeting why he voted against the sale, Cowan – who recently returned to his position as city planning director – said, “I don’t feel comfortable with the agreement as submitted. I wanted to take time and review it. There hasn’t been any negotiation.”

Also opposed to the sale as proposed was former mayor Jim Swoger, under whose administration the property was first purchased by the city from the Bosco family for $1.3 million. 

Swoger voiced concerns about taking an $800,000 loss on the property, even though admitting it was “never worth” what the city paid when it was purchased with thoughts of using it for economic development. 

Primarily, Swoger is concerned with what Woomer plans for the property. 

“I’m not going to cut a deal with a guy from Georgia without stipulations. I have to know what they’re going to do,” he said. “Show me these 800 jobs and I’m going to vote for it. The people who voted for it heard ‘jobs’ but the rest of us were just a little cautious.”

Swoger said he is certain talks between the CIC and Woomer are not over. 

“If this guy actually comes through, and we can put some stipulations in the agreement, this would be great,” Swoger said.

Added Cowan: “We fully intend to pursue a purchase agreement,” saying he hopes to schedule a Zoom meeting with Woomer in the near future to discuss the matter further.

The CIC voted unanimously during Monday’s meeting to dissolve a previous agreement with Woomer for developing the property in light of his offer to purchase it outright.

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