Land bank holds meeting

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The county land bank held its first meeting Monday, with the goal of establishing regulations and securing funding for demolition projects.

During the meeting, the board consisted of Commissioners Ginny Favede and Matt Coffland, and Treasurer Kathy Kelich. Martins Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller will serve as a fourth member, and the Richland Township trustees will select a fifth. Robin Darden Thomas, Western Reserve Land Conservancy Thriving Communities Institute, said a representative from the largest municipality should be on the board, as well as a representative from the townships.

The board will also select a manager to carry out the land bank’s work.

The first order of business was to apply for funding through the Neighborhood Initiative Program. They will apply for $500,000. The application process has already begun and must be submitted by July 31. The organization itself must be operational prior to that.

The board will meet again July 16, 1 p.m. to continue business. If the funds are given to the land bank, they must select 20 properties. They must own at least 10 properties by March of 2015.

“If we receive this money, the land bank itself has to acquire at least 10 properties in the land bank’s name by March 30 of 2015,” said Favede. “By Sept. 30, the land bank has to own or have owned at least 20 properties, and this does take time to get it done. We will have to acquire these properties, so it is essential that we get up and running and have someone managing this land bank for us, because this is a chance to clean up our municipalities and our townships.”

A total of $5,000 was placed in a line item for insurance and other expenses.

A county land bank is a private, non-profit corporation that is not classified as a county agency and is committed to the public purpose of promoting economic and housing development and facilitating the reclamation, rehabilitation and reutilization of vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed or other real property.

The land bank would efficiently hold and manage that real property pending its use and assist government and other entities to assemble that real property and clear the title in a coordinated manner.

The land bank could be funded by a Delinquent Tax Assessment Collection fee increase of up to five percent, a grant recipient, borrowing or property sales.

The county was able to secure funds of about $200,000 through Move Ohio Forward two years ago for communities with dilapidated structures that had to be taken down. Further monies were available through the Hardest Hit Fund, but only to counties that practiced land banking.

Favede noted that the commissioners felt it necessary to hire Thriving Communities to guide the county through the steps and legal procedure to forming a land bank.

“It was important to us that we get it up and running in a timely manner. It was important to us that it be done properly,” she said.

She added that the need to demolish dilapidated structures was a common issue the commissioners heard during their town hall meetings. This was complicated by the reduction of local government funds, which added to the decline.

She noted that this was part of the economic development strategic plan unveiled in 2011. Taking down blighted areas along the riverfront allows for additional economic development.

DeFrank can be reached at