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Township lawsuit dropped

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A Greene County Common Pleas Court judge last week brokered a mutual dismissal of the case between the Miami Township Trustees and former Grinnell Mill B&B owner Donna McGovern. During the pretrial hearing last week, both parties agreed to drop the case and pay their own attorneys’ fees and court costs. The decision ends a two-year conflict that started over who was responsible for the property taxes owed on the Grinnell Mill since part of it started being used as a bed and breakfast in 2008.

The Trustees initiated the lawsuit in early 2011 to press for the eviction of McGovern from the Grinnell Mill, a property they own jointly with two nonprofits as the Grinnell Mill Foundation. McGovern had been living at the mill and operating a B&B business there since 2008 for a monthly fee of $175, payable to the Foundation for facility maintenance. As a nonprofit organization, the foundation had applied for property tax exemption in 2007. But when the foundation learned in 2010 that the property was liable for property taxes on the portion of the building being used for a profitable business, the Trustees attempted to negotiate McGovern’s fee as a way of paying the back taxes owed on the property.

McGovern refused to pay retroactive taxes she claims she never agreed to, for a property she does not own. And because the Trustees did not want taxpayers to pay what they said was a business expense, they asked McGovern to leave the facility so they could find another B&B operator who would. The total taxes owed, about $2,000, amounted to a monthly fee increase of $125. McGovern refused to leave the facility because she claimed the Township had agreed to allow her to operate her business there for five years.

The two parties engaged in mediation in the spring of 2011, and the court ordered McGovern to vacate the property. She then counter sued the Township for $50,000 for lost profits. The two parties then continued with several additional court mandated mediations in 2011 and 2012.

When the case was dismissed, McGovern immediately dropped her counter suit. She now operates the Glen House Bed & Breakfast. The Township Trustees opted to use the prosecuting attorneys provided to them by Greene County and have spent about $500 in Township money for court costs, according to Township Trustee Chris Mucher this week.

The Township paid the back taxes currently owed on the Grinnell Mill. And because the mill needs the income from the bed and breakfast business for its own maintenance, the Mill Foundation created a wholly owned subsidiary, Grinnell Mill B&B Incorporated, as the business entity to run it. The two corporate directors are Randy Rife and Jim Hammond, who played a huge role in renovating the old gristmill from 2004 to 2006. It is currently operating as a milling museum, a bed and breakfast, and a facility for party and event rentals.

The Grinnell Foundation is operated by the Township, the Yellow Springs Historical Society and the Glen Helen Ecology Institute.


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