The Buckeye Valley Local School District Board of Education (BOE) has given the owners of the Haunted Hoorah attraction notice to vacate the property at 530 E. Main St., Ashley, by May 1.
Earlier this week, the attorney for the owners of the business, Brent and Angela Stooksbury, received a letter serving the eviction notice.
The letter to the Stooksburys’ attorney states, “All personal property must be removed from the Property no later than May 1, 2018. … If Mr. Stooksbury has not removed personal property … such property will be deemed abandoned. Neither he, his wife, nor any representative shall thereafter be permitted on the Property. Violation of this express notice will constitute trespass.”
Andrew Miller, Buckeye Valley superintendent, said the district needs access to the property to stay on schedule with construction of the new elementary school. The school board is under pressure to fulfill a promise made in a levy issue voters narrowly passed in November 2015 to finance two new elementary buildings — Buckeye Valley East in Ashley and Buckeye Valley West, which is also under construction, in Bellpoint along state Route 257.
“We need access to the northwest part of the property to install footers for the west wing of the building (Buckeye Valley East),” Miller said.
The BOE filed an eminent domain petition with the Delaware County Common Pleas Court in January to appropriate the property next to Buckeye Valley East Elementary for the construction of a new building and bus loop.
The jury decided March 28 that the school district must pay the Stooksburys $229,000 for the property.
“In 18 months, I don’t think it’s been contested that the district didn’t have a legal right to the property,” Miller said. “It was just a matter of the price.”
The day after the hearing, Miller went on the record with The Gazette as to how soon the school district would take possession of the property.
“We don’t need it right away,” he said at that time. “We’re open to doing a workaround with the former owners to accommodate their needs as well.”
Miller said the only part of the property the district needs right away is the northwest corner to continue the construction of the new building. As for the bus loop, “it could wait a little longer,” he said.
Miller said in a phone interview with The Gazette Wednesday he thought the school board would still “be willing to look into some options” in working with the Stooksburys.
However, “I don’t know how it would work legally if they need to stay there longer,” he said.
Brent Stooksbury said he thinks the school board is being unreasonable with the short amount of time they have given them to vacate the property.
“They haven’t deposited a penny with the court,” he said. “This is just more bullying tactics from the school district. We’re wondering who is running things. Is it the school board or their attorneys?”
Stooksbury also said that he wonders how much the school district spent on court costs and lawyers.
“They pushed harder than we did,” he said.
Stooksbury said actually there was no benefit for his staying on the property, and they could have already moved all the Haunted Hoorah property but had to leave it set up.
“We had to leave the house set up for the jury,” he said. “Now there is a big push to get out, and I have other things going on.”
Stooksbury said he has contacted a moving company and was waiting on an estimate for the cost to move everything.
However, “They can’t do the move until June,” he said. “It’s the moving season, and they’re booked until June.”
Stooksbury’s attorney, Joe Miller of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, said the situation the school district is placing his clients in is “outrageous.”
“They, the school board, have not paid one dollar, not one dollar, to my client for the property or for moving expenses. Nothing,” he said. “They’ve told the public they didn’t have any pressing need for the property and yet they are now seeking to evict my clients in just a few weeks. This is exactly the type of bullying that we don’t want to see from governmental entities in the force taking of the Stooksburys’ property.”
Joe Miller’s associate in the matter, John Kuhl, has requested a status conference with the court to address the important post-trial issues regarding possession of the Stooksburys’ property.
The request for a status conference states, “Defendants believe that (Ohio Revised Code) requires the Board to give the defendants 90-days notice before requiring them to vacate the property. Plaintiff – relying upon case law that predates recent amendments to (the Ohio Revised Code) – contends that (it) does not apply to this appropriation. As a compromise, defendants proposed that they would vacate within 60 days from the Board’s deposit of the proceeds.”
According to Stooksbury, the conference is scheduled for today.