County selling property

T-L Photo/ JENNIFER COMPSTON-STROUGH The Belmont County Board of Commissioners is in the process of selling this property, located off Ohio 147 near Barnesville. It is the site of the former children’s home.

BARNESVILLE — Officials continue to pursue the sale of the former Belmont County Children’s Home property, despite delays at the state level.

The 82.338-acre site just east of Barnesville near the industrial park on Ohio 147 was transferred to the Belmont County Port Authority and sold to Jefferis Real Estate for development. The property was sold for $7,000 per acre; county leaders said the market value on appraisal came in at $5,500 to $6,000 per acre.

Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas has been working with state officials to resolve what he described as a bureaucratic snag that is delaying the transfer. He pointed out there is an outstanding assignment related to a building that was to have been erected on that property in 1999. This project never became a reality, but the assignment still must be released.

Thomas is working with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services and the port authority to conclude the matter.

“We have no direct timetable on how long it may take for the state to release its assignment on it. Our prosecutor is now handling the matter with the Department of Administrative Services’ legal counsel. I would imagine it gets resolved this month,” Thomas said.

County Port Authority Director Larry Merry said he sees potential in the future of the property.

“I think it’ll be a year or two. There isn’t anything (immediate). We don’t know of anything currently, it’s just that this developer had a great track record,” Merry said. “They’ve done a lot of development in the Barnesville area, and once they get the property they’ll look at preparing the property. I really don’t have a timeline on that. That’ll be up to the developer.

“We’ve got to get that property issue resolved. We’re currently working on that. … Sometimes government moves pretty slow.”

Merry said the ground is largely covered with vegetation, including trees, but pointed out the presence of nearby utilities.

“Water is adjacent to it. Sewer is across the road. The main utilities are all there close by,” he said, adding that the property was included in the Joint Economic Development District when it was formed about five years ago. “That was the intent, to eventually have it developed.”

John Jefferis, a partner in Jefferis Real Estate, would not speculate about when development could begin.

“We’re just waiting, getting everything completed here. We’re just waiting on them to get everything on their end cleared up,” he said, adding that the company has no specific plans for what might be done with the property. “The first step would be getting it cleared of trees.”

He added that as developers, the real estate firm has improved properties in the industrial parks on the north and east sides of the village. He said the properties it has worked on are now used by oil and gas interests, Advanced Auto, Dollar General and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He said no business has expressed an interest in the children’s home property.

“We’re developers,” he said. “The east side is pretty well filled up. The north side of town, we’re working on that as we speak. That’s what we do — develop property.”

Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconi has said the county should have advertised the property for sale using other venues than the port authority’s website.

“Make an announcement at the (commissioners’) meetings,” Bianconi suggested. “It should be advertised. … I don’t know who goes on the port authority site.”

Merry and the commissioners have said the property has been advertised for many years but no interested party committed to buy the site.