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The ex-Born2Run Sports Complex in Springfield Township may continue to sit vacant - and deteriorate - indefinitely, as township officials attempt to secure funds to fix up the property. Without improvements, potentital buyers will likely run right past.

Empty, unused and overbuilt, Born 2 Run is an eyesore in Springfield Township.

A crop of scruffy weeds creeps a little higher each day, overtaking the abandoned sports complex.

Each passing winter in which the utilites go unused, pipes rust, crack and burst.

In its three-year vacancy, the elephantine development has slowly deteriorated without adequate maintenance.

Such improvements – and more – may remain undone indefinitely, as a bonding surety company refuses to back up a bond secured by former developer Michelle Properties LLC, which went bankrupt in 2004.

Springfield Township has been in litigation with the bonding company for some months, having filed a lawsuit with the sheriffs in the company’s home county.

“I assume they’ll file objections (to the lawsuit), asking for a dismissal, saying the property’s been sold and the original reason for the bond no longer exists,” said Ray Bogaty, township solicitor, at a board of supervisors meeting Dec. 17. “It’ll be up to the court then to decide if we’re right or wrong.”

The property was purchased at sheriff’s sale in August by a real estate-holding division of former Sky Bank, now Huntington Bank. It remains for sale.

Township officials fear no one will buy it, however, for a couple reasons: First, because the property was created for too specific a purpose, and second, because needed improvements may end up pushed onto the next owner.

However, “With Born 2 Run, it is so far developed that the likelihood of that property changing directions is so minute. It’s going to have to move forward with that kind of use,” said supervisor Donald Bonner.

Township administrator Barb Brown explained developers secure bonds to ensure the work they have promised to do to improve a site will, in fact, get completed. They often secure bonds in addition to signing a required agreement with the township stating the same.

Michelle Properties had taken out two bonds for the township, Brown added after the meeting. The bonding company paid the first when the township called it in, for improvements which had been made to the township’s lift station. The second – now in litigation – was called in for improvements to the site. It was refused.

“We’ve had well over a dozen meetings with the bonding company’s representatives, and their attorney has been contacted numerous times,” she said. “They say they don’t have to pay because they’re closed up and who knows what will move in there next. The township’s position is, no matter who moves in there, we need the parking lot finished, we need the stormwater finished, the landscaping standards finished.

“This has been a nightmare.”

She has tried numerous times to contact Huntington’s representatives, to gain an ally in the fight to cash in the bond. They have never responded to her.

“I’m surprised Huntington Bank hasn’t become a little more aggressive in trying to help us push with this,” Bogaty said, adding that he, too, has tried numerous times to contact Huntington’s attorneys and has never received a response.

“They’re a huge bank. This is a big deal to us because it’s here, it’s an $8 million facility. Eight million dollars to them is like the change I have in (my) drawer,” Brown said.

Playing a little devil’s advocate, Bogaty questioned whether it would hurt the township to leave the Born 2 Run property as-is for now.

Bonner looked at it from the opposite view, however, contending that he would be hard-pressed to find harm – but he could definitely see no benefit to the township for the development to continue festering.

“The worst trouble is, this hole’s gettin’ deeper every month,” supervisor Randall Magee chimed in.

“One of the harms to the township is, the township approved the development of a sports center there. What we have now is weeds and half-finished junk,” Brown added. “They did not hold up their end of the agreement.”

The township does not have any ordinances or codes regulating property appearances, however, so there’s not much to be done regarding the property’s unsightliness.

Instead, the township can examine the property for violations of other municipal codes, Bonner suggested, then inform the bank of the violations. He feels certain they would involve themselves to protect their investment.

The township could also file a complaint with the Department of Environmental Protection, Brown added, as there is a small area of wetland on the property that was never reconstructed.

“(DEP has) bigger hammers than we have. They might be able to knock somebody hard enough to get their attention,” she said.

Bonner and Bogaty both suggested keeping that strategy tucked into the tool belt for now, but said to notify the bank and bonding company of the unresolved DEP issue.

If the township were to decide to back out of the bond – which Bogaty said he wished they could do, and leave it to the bank to decide – the township could end up getting a developer who would refuse to do the needed improvements. The township would then bear the responsibility for making sure the property meets codes.

“The township has a commitment,” Bogaty said. “I don’t want to incur any liability to the township or to (the supervisors).”

Magee offered a final suggestion.

“My contention is, we could bulldoze all those buildings down and sell the property,” he said. “(The developer) made that specifically for one use, and it’s top-of-the-line. That’s what’s killing it, really.”

For the time being, Brown said she will notify Huntington of the officials’ concerns and list the codes which the site violates, to see what they will do.

Since learning Sky Bank had purchased the Born 2 Run property in August, Allied News has tried several times to reach officials at Sky and later Huntington, after the banks merged. Officials at Sky were unable to comment. Attempts to gain comments and information from Huntington Bank also were not successful.

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