September 18, 2003


Future of Grinnell Mill still unclear

Frustrated by what he termed a communication breakdown by Antioch University, Jim Hammond, the local resident trying to buy Grinnell Mill, finally gave up his efforts last week to reach an agreement.

Hammond sent word through David Neuhardt, a lawyer and president of the Yellow Springs Historical Society, to the university on Monday that he would not participate directly in a deal.

“It’s too bad because the mill has to suffer,” Hammond said last week. “If someone else wants to do it, they’re welcome to all my research and my permits and architectural drawings.”

Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman gave Antioch a 30-day extension last week to formulate a workable plan for the mill, which was designated a fire and safety hazard at the beginning of the summer.

The original three-month deadline the Fire Department gave Antioch passed on Friday, Sept. 5, and the university applied for the extension the following Tuesday, Assistant Fire Chief Hope Robbins said.

Antioch was able to demonstrate that negotiations with Hammond were ongoing at the time the extension was granted.

But now that talks have fallen through, the university has slim hopes of another offer coming to the forefront, Glenn Watts, the Antioch University vice chancellor and CFO, said Tuesday.

“We’re down to trying to see if there is some miracle we can pull out of a hat, but it’s not looking real good at the moment,” he said.

The most recent offer the university had submitted to Hammond two weeks ago included a 90-year lease and allowed Hammond to decide how much the ground lease and the price of the mill was worth, Watts said.

But Hammond claimed the offer was “bogus” because Antioch had already retracted several of its own offers to sell the mill at prices ranging from thousands of dollars to $1, with a land lease for varying lengths of time. He said this same pattern of misrepresentation has been happening since the first time the two parties tried to engage in discussions in the spring of 2002.

According to Hammond, communication with Antioch has been very slow, and the university’s written offers often do not reflect the verbal agreements made during discussions between the two parties. The money is not an issue, Hammond said, but trust is.

“I’ve got to deal with these guys in the future, and if I can’t get them on the phone, then how am I going to do business with them?” he said last week.

As a result of the assurances he received at the initial meeting over a year ago, Hammond said he spent a lot of time and over $3,000 preparing to begin work on the mill. He completed a land survey, secured permits from the Greene County health department for the septic system and commissioned architectural drawings for the project. He had planned to make the mill into a residence.

But according to Hammond, when Antioch’s offer came back to him in writing eight months later, the lease agreement was not what the parties had agreed to. They regrouped, met again and made another verbal agreement, which, according to Hammond, again contained different parameters when it came back in writing.

Watts defended Antioch’s offers, saying the university’s attorneys were present at the parties’ last meeting and that they put together an agreement that reflected the conversation as they saw it.

The only change Antioch made was to amend the price of the mill from $1 to $1,000, or something of value for tax purposes, he said.

He also justified raising the price on the mill, saying that the Glen Helen Ecology Institute wanted to be compensated for the lost value of the land if it is sold or leased.

“We see there’s value in this property even if it had no housing unit on it because the Glen is interested in preserving the nature of the Glen,” Watts said.

He also said that the process had been arduous and that Antioch has spent more time and money than it had originally intended to, in order to try and reach an agreement.

Neuhardt said that he has one more idea to help save the mill from destruction. He would not disclose the plan just yet, but said that the Historical Society should have a better idea of its viability sometime soon.

In the meantime, Antioch has until the end of September to make something happen before orders to raze the mill are enforced.

—Lauren Heaton