Land bank begins task

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The Belmont Count Land Reutilization Board held a meeting Wednesday to prepare to acquire properties for demolition.

Last week the board received word that funds of $500,000 had been granted for that purpose. Board members noted that it is necessary to select 20 properties by September but expressed no doubt that the quantity could be met.

The initial target areas are located in Martins Ferry, Bridgeport and Bellaire. Representatives from Flushing and Pease Townships were present to inquire whether funding would be available for demolition work on their properties as well.

Board Member and Commissioner Matt Coffland noted that it was possible to raise added funds through a Delinquent Tax Assessment Collection fee increase of five percent.

The board had initially considered this method for establishing a stable budget for the land bank, but after some debate the commissioners had decided to provide the land bank with an annual $100,000. Commissioners pledged an added $50,000 if needed, reimbursable by grant funding, to allow demolitions to commence when the grant is received.

Should a five-percent DTAC increase be considered, a town hall meeting would be scheduled to allow schools and municipalities to discuss the likely impact and to provide input.

Robin Darden Thomas, Western Reserve Land Conservancy Thriving Communities Institute, noted that funds taken into the land bank beyond the grant can be used for any residential or commercial project outside the target areas. She added that the initial $100,000 from the commissioners is also flexible in application.

Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconi pointed out that they were not invited to participate during the Move Ohio Forward grant funding. He was told that as more funds are raised, the land bank will be able to move beyond the target areas.

Board Member and Commissioner Ginny Favede added that the conditions of the grant specified targeted impact areas be included. She added that they will apply for second round funding in March, where new target areas can be included.

“It’s not going to be a one-time deal. It will be here for as long as the federal government provides the money,” she said.

Board Member and Martins Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller said the land bank’s demolition services will be open to all.

“Do your homework. Don’t get discouraged. Get your properties in order. Get them listed. Have all the information that we need,” he said.

Thomas discussed methods of acquiring property, noting that properties that have gone through two sheriff’s sales and has not sold, the land bank can pick up that property free of all but federal liens.

In other matters, board discussed the administration of funds. Thomas noted that acquisition and demolition funds are reimbursable, as well as maintenance afterward. The program calls for the land bank to acquire ownership of the property. The property must either be held for three years or transferred to an end user that meets the program requirements.

Board motioned to authorize A.C. Wiethe of Belomar Regional Council to submit a contract between the land bank and Belomar to administer the grant funds while training an administrator. Board motioned to advertise for a director.

Board also approved the public records policy.

The next meeting was set for Sept. 15, 1 p.m.

Inquiries can be sent to the commissioner’s office.

DeFrank can be reached at