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The exterior of the Goshen Inn and Conference Center at 1375 Lincolnway East on the south side of Goshen (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) ¬ ¬ ¬ (AP)
Goshen Inn may be omitted from county auction
Posted on Feb. 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Feb. 11, 2013 at 1:34 p.m.

GOSHEN — An abandoned hotel on the south side of Goshen that has become a safety concern for city police may be removed from an upcoming property auction.

The former Goshen Inn, located at 1375 Lincolnway East, is listed among 446 pieces of land that will be part of an online certificate sale this spring organized by the Elkhart County commissioners. Mayor Allan Kauffman met with the commissioners Monday, Feb. 11, to ask them to leave the property out of the auction. Kauffman said he worries that “bottom feeders” will jump at the chance to buy the hotel and reopen it as “something we don’t want to see in Goshen.”

Minimum bids for the properties in the county’s certificate sale will be set at 10 percent of the back taxes and fees owed on each parcel. There are $320,000 in back taxes and penalties owed to the county on the former Goshen Inn, so the property could potentially be sold for as little as $32,000. Bidding will be open between April 5 and April 15.

Goshen police chief Wade Branson said the Goshen Inn has become a nuisance. People have broken into the building to cook methamphetamine and vandalize the vacant rooms, he said. Branson said the building has fallen into disrepair over the years, and the condition worsened in 2011 after the previous owner, Ken Patel, was murdered at the hotel.

“As with most vacant, unsecured buildings, it is not long before opportunistic individuals take advantage of the empty property resulting in, but not limited to, vandalism and other criminal mischief, trespassing, theft, unlawful entry and arson, not to mention the eyesore it has become along with the primary corridor from the south to the city,” Branson told the commissioners.

Branson said Goshen police responded to 18 calls at the former hotel in 2011. There were 30 calls to the building in 2012, 20 of which were related to criminal activities associated with vacant buildings, he said.

“This year, we have already had two incidents of criminal behavior at this property,” Branson said. “In addition to calls for service, this property has had to become part of routine patrolling for officers in hopes of deterring criminal activity. From my observation, there are dozens of times in which officers are stopping at the property, checking for open or broken doors and advising trespassing subjects to leave the lot.”

Branson said he foresees problems getting worse if the building remains unoccupied.

“Basically we’re getting called out there more and more,” he said.

Diana Lawson, head of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed with Branson.

“From a tourism standpoint, it’s in the best interest for the city to have control of that property,” Lawson said. “Our primary reason to make that recommendation and to have that position is that it gives an opportunity for redevelopment whether it becomes another lodging facility or something that would be a better fit and get that out of the inventory of hotels in this county.”