(Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT - There will be no tax abatement for an Indiana man who proposed turning the abandoned Van Wert Inn at 820 N. Washington St. into an assisted living facility and restaurant. Further investigation into Louis Lengacher's finances has revealed he owes money to the state for unpaid unemployment taxes, making him ineligible for a Community Reinvestment Area abatement.
Despite the lack of an abatement and serious financial issues for Lengacher, he is still considering doing the renovation project anyway. Whether it happens or not, the City of Van Wert has nothing to lose.Van Wert Mayor Don Farmer clarified on Thursday that as far as the deal between Louis Lengacher and the owner of the former Van Wert Inn, "The city has nothing in it."
Wednesday night, Lengacher appeared to request a tax abatement on the property from the Community Reinvestment Board. The panel suggested a 90 percent abatement over a ten-year period. Then Thursday, the city was made aware of the unpaid state taxes which disqualifies Lengacher for the tax break. Later on Thursday, the Vantage Career Center Board of Education officially turned down the abatement anyway at its regular monthly meeting.
Farmer told The Times Bulletin that Lengacher had shared information about his financial difficulties even before Wednesday's meeting was called, but Farmer had not been told of the unpaid unemployment taxes which are the subject of a reported lawsuit against Lengacher and his wife. Recently, Lengacher also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize. He and his wife are being sued for non-payment of other bills as well. The filing does not affect any of the limited liability corporations of which Lengacher is a part.
If Lengacher would decide to proceed with the renovating the empty and grown-over hotel and restaurant, the city would benefit. Farmer noted the most likely scenario would be, "We end up with a fixed-up building." Beyond that, any renovation - even unfinished renovation - will not worsen the condition of the property.
Almost seven years ago, Lengacher took on a renovation of a former school building in Antwerp. That structure became the 53-bed Manor House assisted living facility and the Essen House restaurant. After a rough period, that establishment is reportedly currently making money. However, the Manor House is currently named in a suit filed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services requesting approximately $20,000 in unpaid unemployment taxes as well as a suit filed by Antwerp Holdings LLC, the owner of the Antwerp property for failing to comply with contractual agreements including payments of more than $500,000. A trial on the second suit was set for Aug. 8 until Lengacher's bankruptcy filing. No new trial date has yet been set.
The bankruptcy petition filed by Louis and Mary Lengacher cites assets of just under $1 million and liabilities of nearly $6.5 million. Along with assorted financial institutions and construction companies, the largest claims against the Lengachers include the IRS, Community Memorial Hospital in Hicksville, and the Paulding County Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund.
Lengacher told the Community Reinvestment Board on Wednesday he has negotiated a land contract deal with the current owner of the abandoned hotel and with state approval, he can start work on the renovation in around 30 days and have the restaurant and at least part of the 80 rooms of the assisted living center open in about a year.
The City of Van Wert has no financial deal with Lengacher, nor has he borrowed any funds from any Van Wert County or city government sources. However, if the facility is built, Manor House of Van Wert and the Essen House restaurant would employ 40 full-time workers within two years, 16 of those in the restaurant.