Lanny Gilbert, owner of Pizza Cravin’, bought the property at 78 Benedict Ave. for the lone bid of $100 Monday. The gas station has been closed since 2005 and sat empty ever since then.
Gilbert said Wednesday he was mainly interested in buying the gas station property because it had been vacant for so many years. He owns Pizza Cravin’, which is next door across from the Norwalk Creek.
As a nearby business owner, Gilbert said the station was an eyesore and made the development of that part of Norwalk bad for other owners and operators. He added he wants the downtown feeling to go past the railroad tracks on Benedict Avenue.
“I want to extend that. I want it to extend south of the tracks,” Gilbert said. “It’s definitely zoned business. I’d definitely like to see more business at this end of town.”
On his immediate to-do list is clear the gas station property of small trees and brush, which also is crowding the electrical line. Gilbert also plans on replacing the broken glass in the small building.
“First off, I want to clean up the property,” said the property owner, who was part of two-man crew taking down saplings late Wednesday morning. “Everyone will notice a big difference after a few days.”
Gilbert was asked what his vision is for the property. He said there’s a plan, but he’s keeping it to himself for now.
“I had to do my due diligence,” Gilbert added. “If I carry out my vision, probably nothing will happen until next spring.”
Ridding Norwalk of eyesores has been a passion of Councilman Steve Schumm for many years.
“That’s not good for the city of Norwalk; that’s not good for any city,” he said, referring to trashy properties.
Schumm said he isn’t just happy about the gas station property being purchased, but is “ecstatic.” He credited Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach, Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara, zoning officer Mitch Loughton and safety-service director Dan Wendt for their effort in getting the property available for auction.
“It was a coordinated effort,” Schumm said. “It was a case of persistence.”
Finding the previous owner took several months.
“We tracked him to Las Vegas. That probably took six months to trace him,” Schumm said.
Over the years, Buster, a Columbus-based company checked the property for leaks in the gas tanks and their contents. Schumm said those inspections were paid by state money from taxes on gasoline.
“The fiberglass tank in there was relatively new. The steel tanks weren’t leaking,” added Schumm, who has been concerned with gas leaking into the Norwalk Creek.
Another concern he had was someone discarding a cigarette that could cause a possible explosion.
Schumm was at Monday’s auction and spoke to Gilbert afterward.
“When he bought the gas station, there was more than one (person) who cheered,” Schumm said. “Nobody else bid on it. … He’s real, real optimistic about what he can do with that property.”
However, he said there were two other people who were interested in buying it.
Schumm, an at-large council member, has received multiple calls from people inquiring about buying Eagle signs or the canopy. Gilbert said anyone who is interested in Eagle paraphernalia should contact him at Pizza Cravin’, 64 Benedict Ave.
“It’s great to have a local owner because they care,” said Tkach, who conducted the auction Monday at the sheriff’s office. “The last time gas someone pumped gas there was Feb. 28, 2005.”
All 17 properties in the auction were sold.
Tkach said he is “very, very happy” each of the properties were sold and have gone to owners who have plans for them.
“Doing something with the property is always good,” the auditor added.