Liverpool CIC Oks Sale of Riverview Florist Property

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — After more than a decade of sitting abandoned and falling into disrepair, the nearly 85-acre property which once housed the Riverview Florist greenhouses and showroom is being sold to a Georgia developer.

Despite some reservations by members, and one negative vote, the Community Improvement Corporation last week approved a purchase agreement with John R. Woomer, who has offered $500,000 for the property, nestled between Parkway and Anderson Boulevard in the city’s East End.

The sales agreement was first discussed at a meeting of the CIC’s property committee, which includes Executive Director Bill Cowan and members Lisa Blasdel and Tom Clark.

CIC president Patrick Scafide said the agreement had been discussed back and forth for many months between Woomer and city law director Charles Payne before the end of last year. Many of the talks appeared to be more in Woomer’s favor than the CIC’s, but this latest agreement is more “level,” he said.

Blasdel, who serves as the executive director of the Southern Columbiana County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said while the sale was something the CIC wanted to see go through, she had some concerns about the $100 escrow Woomer was required to post, calling it “not anything at all,” and pointing out it reverts to the buyer if the sale falls through.

Member Brad Goodballet also questioned giving Woomer until September for completing his due diligence, saying both that time frame and the escrow amount were “way out of whack.”

Member Al Fricano, head of the finance committee, argued this is a development with the potential of generating annual revenue of $300,000 on property that has been sitting idle for 10 years.

“And you want to Mickey Mouse around with this [agreement],” Fricano said. “Why not just sign it?”

Woomer has not given officials any specific plans for the property. Fricano said when he spoke to the developer on the phone, Woomer advised he needed more time for the due diligence. He addded that Woomer has “major companies wanting to come in here” and sometimes it takes six months to arrange financing and other plans.

“It is prudent for us to do this and sell it to him,” Fricano insisted.

The city initially purchased the property during the administration of former Mayor James Swoger for about $1.2 million and annexed it from Liverpool Township. About $300,000 of that cost was recouped through gas and oil leases. The city transferred the property to the CIC in 2013 to better market it for development.

According to Fricano, it has been appraised at $500,000 and there is a smokestack on the showroom building that must come down, as well as other work to do before it is ready to develop.

“You have a city that is distressed. No one is beating down the door to come here. The only reason he wants to buy this is his father is from here and he played on this ground (as a child),” Fricano said. “They don’t have to come here. I don’t know why you’re giving them such a hard time.”

Payne advised the board since it does not appear another buyer is waiting in the wings, the idea is to get a contract in place, let the buyer conduct due diligence and, if it doesn’t pan out, start over and start marketing the property to someone else.

Ultimately, upon recommendation by the property committee, the escrow amount was increased from $100 to $5,000 without altering the due diligence time frame.

With members Tom Beagle, Robert Nizer, Herman Potts, Connie Javens, Dan Dietz and Fred Emmerling absent and member Tom Clark opposed, the board voted to approve the purchase agreement.

Asked after the meeting about his opposition, Clark, a captain in the city police department, said he believes there are still “a lot of issues” and language not to his liking.

“We all want to do something for the betterment of the city. But I want things clarified; I don’t want things left with (unclear) language,” Clark said. He noted that Woomer has not specified why he wants the property.

Because the property is zoned as a Planned Unit Development when obtained by the city, Cowan said it can be used for almost any purpose. But all plans must be approved by the zoning board and city council.

Meanwhile, a second property sale on the agenda was tabled when Scafide said an “issue” has arisen regarding the letter of intent approved by the board in January for the sale of the former East Liverpool Motor Lodge to MVC Advisors LLC.

Scafide said he was “not sure what it is” but moved to table voting on the purchase agreement that Cowan had previously indicated would be on the agenda.

Also tabled was a small business loan request for a dog grooming operation on Sixth Street after the potential owner did not appear at the meeting to discuss the project.

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