Berlin Twp. appeals ruling on cemetery


Berlin Township has filed an appeal with the Fifth District Court of Appeals, asking them to overturn a recent ruling by a Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judge that gave the township control of Fairview Memorial Park but allowed one parcel of land to be sold by the receiver.

The original owners of both parcels of land, Theodore and Arminda Martin, are currently in prison after pleading guilty to theft charges for taking money for plots and items at the cemetery — located at 5035 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center — but never following through with the orders.

In May 2017, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley appointed A.C. Strip, a Columbus attorney who has handled cemetery receiverships before, to be the receiver for the cemetery. Since then, Strip has been working to find a buyer for the cemetery, and in April of 2018, Strip asked for approval to sell a small portion of the cemetery as well as the undeveloped land adjacent to the cemetery. Berlin Township then filed to join the case as a party, objected to the sale, and asked that it be given the cemetery along with the adjacent undeveloped 8.32500 acres of land, which is a separate parcel.

Strip and the township have filed numerous arguments and motions since last April, and last month, Gormley ordered that ownership of Fairview Memorial Park be transferred to Berlin Township, and he ruled that Strip is allowed to sell the parcel of undeveloped land that borders the cemetery.

On April 5, Berlin Township appealed to the Court of Appeals in the case and asked the appeals court to overturn part of Gormley’s ruling. Specifically, the township appealed Gormley’s denial of the township’s default judgment motion, the denial of the township’s cross claim motion, and the denial of the transfer of the unused parcel to the township.

The motion was filed on April 5. There have been no subsequent filings in the court of appeals.

The township also filed a motion on March 21 in common pleas court asking Gormley to reconsider his motion and asking him to also transfer control of the undeveloped land to the township, arguing that the cemetery consists of both parcels.

In that motion, the township’s attorney, Christopher A. Rinehart, quoted a variety of statements that refer to the cemetery as both parcels of land, and he said taxes that have been paid on the undeveloped parcel were paid under the cemetery code.

Additionally, Rinehart argued that if Gormley denies the township’s motion to get the second parcel and the parcel is sold, the proceeds of the sale must go to the operations of the cemetery and not be used to compensate Strip.

Rinehart also requested that if Gormley denies the motion, he give the township extra time before he issues a final ruling so it has time to conduct discovery and review documents possessed by the receiver.

Gormley has not yet filed a response to Berlin Township’s motion. Keeran | Gazette file photo

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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