Zoar Volunteer Fire Department given 3-day eviction notice

Zoar Volunteer Fire Department given 3-day eviction notice
Lori Feeney

Fire department vehicles are still visible in the windows of the Zoar Fire Department. The department received a three-day eviction notice from the village on May 4. The ongoing battle over ownership will head to court next.


At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, Zoar Mayor Scott Gordon posted a three-day eviction notice on the door of the fire station in Zoar. The notice gives the Zoar Volunteer Fire Department Inc. three days to vacate the building or face eviction proceedings.

The three-day notice is not a court order. According to Douglas Frautschy, village solicitor, if the department does not leave within that time frame, the village has the option of filing a lawsuit to evict them.

Village council voted 5-1 at a special council meeting on April 23 to evict the fire department from the premises. The lone “no” vote was cast by councilwoman Judy Meiser, whose son Charles Meiser is the fire chief in Zoar.

At issue is who owns the land and the building at 190 E. Fifth St. Village officials say the village owns all property and point to a deed registered with the county auditor’s office listing the Village of Zoar as owners.

The fire department contends village council gave them the land in 1953, using written meeting minutes to back up their claim. In support the attorney for the fire department, Patrick J. Williams, points specifically to the use of the word “gift” in the 1953 minutes, the fact that the fire department has always operated independent of the village and the money raised by the department to fund their equipment and continued operation.

Frautschy said the action taken by council in 1953 means the village granted permission to build on the land but did not give them the land. Otherwise, the village would have deeded it to the department.

Frautschy said the village does plan to file a lawsuit in common pleas court. “There is no doubt the deed is in the name of the village, so they have what’s called ‘legal title.’ They claim to have a claim under the doctrine of ‘equitable title.’

Legal title is documented ownership. Equitable title allows use of the land and the benefits that come with ownership until ownership has occurred. Legal title does not necessarily grant these rights.

“The village plans to file for an eviction,” Frautschy said. “We assume the fire department will try to make some sort of an equitable title argument, but we don’t think they have a very good case. But time will tell.”

“We believe our clients have a right to both the land and the property based upon the history of the case,” Williams said. “I do not think anyone can be evicted from a property in which they have an ownership interest.”

The disagreement began last year when council ceased fire contract negotiations with the Zoar Volunteer Fire Department and instead pursued a contract with the Bolivar Fire Department. In March of this year, council signed a contract to use Bolivar as part of its Lawrence Township fire contract. The village already had an EMS contract with Bolivar.

Village officials have stated a desire to use the fire department building as a community and safety center. In the meantime it appears the fire department isn’t going anywhere soon. Fire trucks are still visible through the windows, and there was a drive-thru spaghetti dinner fundraiser on Saturday, May 8 from 4-7 p.m. The only thing that appears certain is the battle will continue in court.

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