Three years after the former Goshen Inn became vacant, Lisa and Robert Galloway are thinking about getting a gun.
The Galloways live across the street from the property at 1375 Lincolnway E., surrounded by small businesses, chain hotels and a church. Since 2011, they have heard stories of people breaking in to the building to cook drugs or sleep. Lisa often sees police officers circling the property in their cars and shining lights into the inn’s windows.
“It kind of creeps me out because, you know, we’re right across the street, and they go over there and get drug-addled or something and we’re sitting right here without any neighbors,” Lisa said.
The former Goshen Inn has been vacant since its owner was murdered in October 2011.
Kiran “Ken” Patel died at the Goshen Inn of multiple blunt force trauma to the head, according to previous reporting by The Elkhart Truth. Police arrested 54-year-old John T. Hawley — one of Patel’s employees — and he’s serving 65 years in prison for the murder.
Lisa Galloway used to work for Patel at the hotel and remembers him fondly.
“It was kind of a shock when I heard what happened to him, because he didn’t do anything to deserve it,” Galloway said. “He helped the people that ultimately killed him.”
Goshen police responded to 42 calls at the vacant hotel property in the last three years, according to a police document. Twelve of the reports were for vandalism.
Goshen police chief Wade Branson told The Elkhart Truth in 2013 that people have also broken into the building to cook methamphetamine.
Being vacant, the former Goshen Inn will bring down the property value of its neighbors, according to Goshen community development director Mark Brinson.
“It’s typical when you have any type of dilapidated structure, it spreads — it bleeds — over to surrounding properties and has a direct impact on those properties when they come up for sale,” Brinson said.
DEVELOPMENT IN LIMBO
Patel’s widow, Karuna Patel, became the owner of the property after her husband’s death, but the family was unable to reopen the hotel or pay property taxes, according to court documents filed May 2014.
Elkhart County commissioners tried to sell the property at a 2012 tax sale, according to Elkhart County treasurer Jackie Myers, but no one wanted it. They sought to sell the property again in 2013, according to previous reporting by The Elkhart Truth.
In 2013, $320,000 in back taxes and penalties were owed to the county, according to previous reporting by The Elkhart Truth. That total ballooned to $414,489.34 in 2014, Myers said.
Commissioners agreed to assign the tax certificate to Goshen, according to city documents. The city could then accept proposals from developers regarding the property, evaluating which would have the most positive impact on the surrounding community.
“It’s something that could help improve the immediate area just by bringing new use there that brings along a revitalized block in what otherwise would be a pretty nice part of town,” Brinson said.
But the property owners objected to the issuance of the tax certificate and brought the matter to court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the city. The Patels subsequently filed an appeal, a process that could delay the transfer for several months.
The Elkhart Truth was unable to reach Karuna Patel or her legal representative as of Friday afternoon, Jan. 23.
If the court rules in favor of the Patel family, they would attempt to restore the property, according to court documents. Before that could happen, they would also have to pay the back taxes and penalties.
If the city receives the tax certificate, the county would waive those costs, according to Brinson. The city could then seek proposals from developers.
“It is a disappointment to us how long it’s taken to get possession of the property,” Brinson said. “We are limited in what we can do right now to address the problem, and we’re left more to reacting to problems.”
It’s going to take a lot of money, but Lisa Galloway wants somebody to renovate or knock down the vacant hotel. And she thinks a lot of people in the community shares her opinion.
“A lot of bad things have happened there,” she said.