Note: This story appears in the Friday, Jan. 11 newspaper on Page A1.
THE PLAINS — A large tract of land near The Plains is being promoted on the internet as the potential site of a mixed-use residential and retail development.
The land, recently cleared of trees, was purchased last spring from the Cottingham Real Estate Trust by a company called NML Gallia LLC. NML Gallia is affiliated with Athens businessman Harold Laughlin.
The site is across Route 33 from Athens High School and borders River Road.
The Messenger could not reach Laughlin on Thursday for comment about the proposed project.
A website, https://route33athens.com, describes in general terms a "298 Acre Athens Route 33 Development Project" and lists the telephone number of Laughlin Music & Vending in Athens.
Laughlin and Doug Brooks, also of Laughlin Vending, attended a recent meeting where they mentioned the website and the mixed-use development, according to two people at the meeting.
Although The Messenger was able to reach Brooks on Thursday, he referred all questions to Laughlin.
The website touts the potential for 250-500 new jobs, and lists "major anchors" for the development as senior housing, assisted living and "retail and new housing development." The senior housing and assisted living are listed as "pending" and the retail/housing development as "in process."
It appears that the nearest source of water and sewer service for the site would be the Athens County Water and Sewer District, which serves The Plains. District Supt. Rich Kasler said he has not been contacted by anyone regarding the district potentially serving the property.
The site is within three miles of Athens, and the city has subdivision jurisdiction within the three-mile area. If the property were to be subdivided as part of its development, it would require city approval, according to City Planner Paul Logue.
Logue and City Code Director Rick Sirois said they have not been contacted by anyone regarding the property.
According to Courthouse records, NML Gallia LLC purchased the property for $585,360. A county conveyance fee statement lists its size as "255+ acres."
The meeting attended by Laughlin and Brooks was held by County Engineer Jeff Maiden with the purpose of discussing Johnson Road, which provides access to Athens High School. Maiden said school officials contacted him about safety concerns on Johnson Road, and expressed a desire to have overhead lighting at the Route 33/Johnson Road intersection and reflectors on Johnson Road.
Maiden said the meeting was attended by school, county, township and state highway officials. Maiden said he invited Laughlin because River Road is opposite Johnson Road and he knew Laughlin had purchased property there and recently cleared it.