Originally Published on The Marion Star – Author Sarah Volpenhein.
LA RUE — Mayor Milton Lightfoot looked on as an excavator tore up an empty lot in the middle of the village Thursday.
It could be the beginning of a new storefront in La Rue, he hopes.
The lot has sat empty for more than eight years, despite interest from businesses, such as Family Dollar and Dollar General, Lightfoot has said.
Redevelopment efforts have stalled because of liabilities surrounding the site, which used to be a gas station. In 2014, an environmental study found that underground fuel tanks there had leaked, contaminating the soil and groundwater, according to the village’s application for the state’s Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Grant.
“Several interested businesses … have taken the property into contract only to back away due to the unknown extent of contamination on and off-property,” reads the village’s grant application, a copy of which was obtained by the Star from the Ohio Development Services Agency.
In August, the village won a $150,000 grant to remove any underground fuel tanks still at the property, 36 N. High St., and to clean up the surrounding soil.
Lightfoot hopes the village will then be able to sell the property, which has cost the village thousands of dollars in upkeep since acquiring it in 2010, according to the grant application.
“I’m just hoping some retail store or other business wants to build there. I don’t care who it is, as long as it’s a business,” he said.
The project will include cleaning up the contaminated groundwater and soil, as well as installing groundwater monitoring wells to measure groundwater contamination levels.
The project has a completion date of August 2020, according to the grant agreement.
Jeffrey Paetz, president of Phoenix Environmental, the consulting firm, said he hopes to complete work on the project by the end of next year.