MOUNT VERNON — The recent flare of controversy over the purchase of the land for Honey Run Highlands Park in 2009 centers on the accuracy of an appraisal done for the owner of the property and the way Clean Ohio grant applications are reviewed. Honey Run Highlands Park is located on Hazel Dell Road, just east of Millwood.
Doug Givens, former managing director of the Philander Chase Corp. and one of the founders of the Owl Creek Conservancy (he is no longer with either in any official capacity), has complained that the appraisal resulted in too much taxpayer money going for the purchase of the park. He wants the state to institute a better process for evaluating appraisals. He also maintains that the high appraisal in the Honey Run Highlands case cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars, and that the high appraisal will drive up property prices, making it more difficult to acquire land for farm preservation or green space projects.
“My one objective is to get the Ohio Public Works Commission to change its policy in regard to appraisals of property in applications to the Clean Ohio Fund,” Givens said. He noted that other state and federal agencies have a policy in place for evaluating the accuracy of property appraisals.
However, Ohio Public Works Commission Director Mike Miller said the park district project went through the normal evaluation and ranking process by the Natural Resources Advisory Council for District 17 and then was passed on to the Public Works Commission. At that point, Miller said, an appraisal was required and the PWC received an appraisal done by a state-certified appraiser.