2008-02-16 / Editorials & Letters

Wells discovers another questionable deal


Buckeye Lake Planning Commission Chair Karen Cookston strikes again! She acquired two more lots in Cranberry Bay for a total of $23,000. The significanceof this transfer is two-fold. 1) The lots have private homes on them - she just bought the land. 2) This appears to be another conflictof interest deal with the developer of the Bounds farm. The affected homeowners were unaware of this transaction until I visited them.

Both homeowners on Anchors Way received a letter from Hunts Landing, LLC dated 1/3/08 offering to continue the annual land lease for $2,000. According to Licking County records, Frank J. Cipriano, President of Parkmead Corporation, a General Partner of Community Development Company, a managing member of Hunts Landings, LLC, transferred the lots to Cookston with a deed dated 1/4/08 and recorded 1/30/08. Both homeowners paid their lease in January without any knowledge that their next door neighbor, Karen Cookston, had already bought the lots under their houses.

There's nothing illegal about selling or buying a lot under someone else's home. There's nothing illegal about collecting lease payments while negotiating a sale. However, in good conscience how could anyone do such a thing? Why didn't Mr. Cipriano give these homeowners a deadline to buy their own lots in the same letter requesting a lease renewal? He signed over the deed the day after the letter. And, as far as Cookston is concerned, these people are her neighbors! The teenager living in one of the homes has been saving money to help his parents buy the lot for gosh sakes! The other homeowner told me they thought the purchase price was $5,000 more and had indicated they would buy in 2008.

Most of the leased lots in Cranberry Bay (Bounds Addition) were sold in 1996. Those who didn't buy the land under their home continued to lease from the Bounds family. To my knowledge, the Bounds family never sold lots out from under the homeowners to others. They were great about renewing the leases until residents were able to buy their own lots.

This is the second time that Cookston has acquired property (at a reduced rate or for free) while having an obvious conflictof interest.

As Chair of the Buckeye Lake Village Planning and Zoning Commission since January 2006, Karen Cookston has been at the center of village decisions made for this property. Several years ago, she fought hard to retain her leadership role with the homeowners association so she could continue to work with the Bounds family. She insisted on being the liaison dealing with the transfer of the waterfront easement property that Bounds gave the homeowners association. Even after being defeated as the association's president, she insisted that she was the ONLY one that the Bounds family and their agent should deal with.

The Bounds farm along with a few leased lots were sold to Hunts Landing, LLC in November 2006 for $1,350,000.

The preliminary construction plans for the The Landings were approved by the Planning Commission on Cookston's motion 2/20/07. The deed transferring the waterfront easement property to the association was recorded on 3/23/07. A Quit Claim Deed, dated 2/23/07 and recorded on 3/23/07, transferred a portion of two platted but undeveloped streets, East and Dockside Drive, from the Bounds family to Karen Cookston. This FREE real estate GIVEN to Cookston measures about 10,968 sq. ft. in total which is equivalent to about three lots.

According to officialminutes of the Planning Commission and the homeowners association, Cookston failed to report her involvement in either of these property transactions. In her appointed position with the village, she is governed by the Ohio Ethics Law. The Ohio Revised Code clearly states that a public officialcannot accept anything of value that would cause a "substantial and improper influence upon the public official" with respect to that person's public duties.

We now have flooding issues with the development. There's also an appeal of an Ohio EPA permit concerning proper treatment of some wetlands on the property. As much as I support this project and welcome it as an adjacent property owner, it's clear now that the village was in a huge rush to approve it and failed to iron out all the details.

Certainly, the village officials failed to get any substantial exactions from this developer. We gave away more than we got. Licking County Water will get 100 water taps for 10 years- how does that help us pay for water for the current residents?

What did the village get? A measly $10,000 check that got lost in the general fund! What an insult.

And now, two more families are victims. How much more can this village tolerate when it comes to poor decisions based on conflictsof interest and personal gain? Peggy Wells Buckeye Lake

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