Land Bank looking to grow

A property at 55979 National Road, Bridgeport is among those considered for demolition by the Belmont County land bank. Photo Provided

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp., commonly called the land bank, is looking into expanding operations and possibly rehabilitating a house as well as demolishing dilapidated properties.

Director Tim Hall gave an update on the demolition of the former Flushing school buildings during last week’s meeting. The full board met, including Greg Reline, Josh Meyer, Mark Thomas and Chairwoman Kathy Kelich. Martins Ferry City Council President Christina Davis was present representing the city as the largest municipality in the county, as required by the organization’s regulations. Board members expect the city to select a permanent representative to the board later.

“At this point, the (Flushing school) buildings are down. They’re still moving debris, and once all the debris is removed they’ll start actually grading,” Hall said, adding that measures have been taken to provide souvenir bricks for those who want one. “And they are saving the bricks.

They’ve taken two (dump truck) loads of the bricks to the park in Flushing for the residents. They wanted to take them away from the site to reduce any injury or falling on the construction zone.”

“We are anticipating transferring that property back to the (Belmont County) Port Authority once that job is complete,” Kelich said.

She went on to list more than a dozen properties in Bellaire, Powhatan Point and Martins Ferry that the land bank could potentially acquire.

“Those are now proceeding to foreclosure, so we’ll actually be able to start to send those through the process. As long as no one buys them at the first foreclosure sale, we’ll actually be able to acquire those,” she said.

The board also heard from Pease Township Trustees Michael Bianconi and Jim Delman regarding a dilapidated house at 55979 National Road in Bridgeport, across from the Riesbeck’s Food Market. Delman had noted that the site was a public nuisance.

“I think the weeds are keeping it from falling onto Route 40 right now,” Bianconi said.

Bianconi asked if the land bank might reimburse the township if the entity tore it down. They referred to a similar situation in Pultney Township, where a property on Belmont County Road 214 was in danger of falling onto the road.

“The person who owned the property was deceased,” Kelich said. “There was no executor of the estate. There was no one to take over this property to actually allocate this debt to.”

Bianconi and Delman said the owner of the Bridgeport property is alive but unable to demolish the structure. Bianconi said he would have an estimated demolition cost by the next meeting.

The board will take the matter under advisement to discuss later.

Bellaire Police Chief Richard “Dick” Flanagan also commended the land bank’s work in his village.

“I want to thank you guys for everything you’ve done for Bellaire so far,” he said.

The Land Bank is also looking at several properties in Barnesville, including one on North Chestnut Street that is in better condition than the others that could possibly be rehabilitated.

“This land bank has never done a rehab before. Most land banks do pursue rehabs,” Kelich said.

“It’s a very nice house with very good woodwork. I think it would make a great project, if the board would choose to do so, to rehab,” Hall said.

Kelich noted that these properties would have to be approved by the Neighborhood Initiative Program first. Regarding the potential rehabilitation project, she said the board would invite the director of the Trumbull County Land Bank, which has undertaken rehabilitations, to discuss potential costs and work such a project would demand.

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