Judge: Historical society can evict country club

A country club leasing its course from a nonprofit historical society can have its lease bought out by the property owner, a judge ruled Friday. The decision found that the early cancellation of the lease was justified by the importance of preserving the historic Octagon Earthworks pre-Columbian site and making it available to visitors on a regular basis.

Licking County Common Pleas Judge David Branstool issued his decision last Friday, according to an article in the Newark Advocate. However, the newspaper reported late Monday that the country club has said it intends to file an appeal.

In his decision, Branstool had said a jury will decide the fair market value of the unused portion of the lease and the capital improvements the country club has made to the property. He further said the Moundbuilders Country Club can only be evicted if the Ohio History Connection can meet that price. That case will be heard in September, pending outcome of the appeal.

Moundbuilders Country Club has leased the property since 1910, originally from the state of Ohio (which had used it as a training center for the state militia). The Ohio History Connection (which was known as the Ohio Historical Society until 2014) acquired title to the site from the state in 1933, assuming the country club’s lease. The lease was extended by mutual agreement in 1997 — and currently runs through 2078.

At issue is a pre-Columbian site, the Octagon Earthworks. Built by the Hopewell culture between 100 and 500 A.D., the site is the largest earthen enclosure in the world. The state and federal governments are attempting to have the site added to the World Heritage List, and both have said the United Nations will not consider the request if it is still being used as a golf course.

Ohio History Connection (OHC) first approached the country club about buying out the lease on Aug. 28, offering $800,000. The country club declined, and OHC then filed a civil claim in November. Testimony in that case ended April 8.

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