Sugarcreek Twp. trustees this month agreed to sell the property of late World War II veteran James “Pee Wee” Martin to Martin’s granddaughter — after a trust for Martin willed the property to the township at no cost.
“Why should the township profit for being basically a pass-through” entity, asked Kevin Price, a Bellbrook resident and a member of the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Board of Education.
Township leaders say they are following Martin’s wishes.
“A few residents were unhappy with the situation, but when the details of the will/trust was read to them at the last trustee meeting, they realized that the township was working to fulfill the wishes of Jim ‘Pee Wee’ Martin,” township officials said in an emailed response to questions from the Dayton Daily News.
Nicknamed “Pee Wee” for his diminutive size, Martin — a locally celebrated and much-loved Second World War veteran who parachuted into France with Allied troops on D-Day — died on Sept. 11, 2022, Patriots Day, at the age of 101.
Martin, a longtime Sugarcreek Twp. resident, parachuted into Normandy near Saint-Come-du-Mont behind Utah Beach at 12:30 a.m. on D-Day.
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Credit: JIM NOELKER
He later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he received a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and European African Middle Eastern Service Medal for his service.
He celebrated his 100th birthday on April 29, 2021.
A resolution on the Sugarcreek Twp. web site indicates that township trustees earlier in March agreed to enter into a purchase agreement for the property in the 2400 block of Stewart Road with Jodi Puterbaugh at an “agreed-upon” price of $401,000 cash.
The resolution was signed by Carolyn Destefani, trustees chairperson, Fred Cramer, vice-chairperson, Marvin Moeller, trustee, and township Fiscal Officer Richard Demko.
Questions about the transaction were sent to Cara Tilford, township planning director, and Barry Tiffany, township administrator.
“Mr. Martin’s trust was clear in its plans for disposition of the property,” they said in an email. “It was to be sold when the township deemed the time to be right and the proceeds from the sale were to be put into the township’s general fund. When Ms. Puterbaugh expressed an interest in acquiring the property, we kept her apprised of the township’s intent to sell the property per the trust and ultimately her offer to purchase the property was accepted.”
Puterbaugh, Martin’s granddaughter, confirmed the purchase agreement in a series of text messages and a brief interview with a Dayton Daily News reporter.
“I never complained to anybody about what is happening,” she said before declining further comment.
Puterbaugh said she has arranged private funding to cover the purchase price. She declined to elaborate.
In a series of text messages, she said the property was a “gift” from her grandfather to the township. “The community and beyond are outraged that they (township leaders) are making a profit on it.”
She added: “My long-term goal is to preserve what my grandpa and grandma built ... A developer would not care about the history there.”
“Am I comfortable paying that amount? No,” she said. “However, when I found out the township didn’t want the property that was gifted to them, I felt like I needed to do whatever was necessary to preserve (my) family’s legacy and his (Martin’s) wishes.”
“The community is outraged and those who knew grandpa well wouldn’t be happy over this process,” Puterbaugh added, saying: “This is very emotional for me.”
Price believes the township should alter the approved resolution and sell it to Puterbaugh for a small, nominal fee.
“There is no reason for them to not do that,” Price said in an interview. “They do not need to make one penny on this property that was gifted to them.”
Township trustee Fred Cramer said, “If her grandfather wanted her to have the property, why didn’t he give it to her?”
In a statement, Price — who said he knew Martin well — read to trustees at a March 20 meeting, he recommended they amend the resolution and sell the site to Martin’s granddaughter for $1.
“If there are concerns over fairness or challenges from other Martin family members, permit offers from only the Martin family and accept the highest offer,” Price said in his statement. “Donate any proceeds beyond the legal/administrative fees to a veterans’ group such as the Disabled American Veterans.”
He said the township rejected other offers for the property in favor of Puterbaugh’s offer, but he did not know how many other offers there were.
“I think they are trying to defer to her as the granddaughter,” Price said.
Nadine Daugherty, a former five-term township trustee, said trustees will meet again Monday April 3, and she expects them to discuss the situation.
“Jim Martin was very involved, and he cared very much about our community,” she said. “He would always be at the meetings whenever he could.”
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