“All the tanks have been pulled out of the ground. That has been paid for by our Brownfields (grant) money by the EPA,” Norwalk Public Works Director Josh Snyder said. “They tested the soil as the tanks were pulled.”
The EPA started Brownfields site projects as a way to address and prepare under-utilized or dilapidated properties for redevelopment. Norwalk also has used grant money to tear down the Norwalk Foundry building on Carey Place between Newton and Pleasant streets.
“It’s a 100-percent grant; no money out of the city’s pocket. That’s most important,” Snyder said.
The $85,000 one-day project, which took place last week at 78 Benedict Ave., also included taking down the canopy.
“That property has been a priority for a long time,” Snyder said.
In April, Lanny Gilbert, owner of Pizza Cravin’, bought it for the lone bid of $100 at a county auction. The gas station has sat empty since it closed in 2005. Pizza Cravin’ is located next door to the property, across from the Norwalk Creek.
Norwalk City Councilman Steve Schumm has credited Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach, Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara, zoning officer Mitch Loughton and now former safety-service director Dan Wendt for their effort in getting the property available for auction.
“It was a coordinated effort,” Schumm said in April. “It was a case of persistence.”
Gilbert has said he was mainly interested in buying the property because it was vacant for years and being an eyesore, it made the development of that part of Norwalk bad for other owners and operators.
“I want to extend that. I want it to extend south of the tracks,” he said, referring to a downtown atmosphere for that area of Norwalk. “It’s definitely zoned business. I’d definitely like to see more business at this end of town.”
City officials at one point approached Gilbert about partnering to get his property cleaned up.
“He didn’t have a concrete plan for the property, so he said sure,” Snyder said Tuesday.
Over the years, a Columbus company checked the property for leaks in the gas tanks and their contents. It was believed the steel tanks with relatively new fiberglass weren’t leaking.
“Our understanding is those are metal tanks that had been lined with fiberglass,” Snyder said Tuesday. “Why would you line them (with fiberglass) if they were fine? … We don’t want to jump to conclusions. We won’t know that until the lab results are back.”
Results about possible leaks are pending.