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Belmont County land bank releases list of structures to be taken down

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp., commonly called the land bank, announced its list of dilapidated, foreclosed properties to be acquired and razed in 2022.

In past years, projects have chiefly been in communities along the Ohio River, since the land bank’s funding was directed specifically to those areas, but new funding of up to $500,000 has allowed the land bank to expand its services to other townships.

T.J. Hill, who works as an assistant to Belmont County Treasurer Kathy Kelich who is also the land bank chairwoman, said there is no shortage of prospective sites. He said there were more than 150 parcels up for consideration at some point, including sites in Pease Township, Pultney Township, Bridgeport, Colerain and Barnesville.

“We went off of stuff that we could get right now, that was already tax foreclosed, because of the funding. We only have a window of a little bit more than a year to get all of these down, so we didn’t want to be held up by tax-foreclosing a bunch of properties, because that takes forever,” Hill said. “We went with the ones that were already tax-foreclosed that would make the best impact in those areas.”

One group of selected sites are at 520 Wiley Ave., Barnesville; 124 Wood St., Flushing; Ohio 331 and Ohio 149, Flushing; the old post office at Crescent/Barton Road in Barton, Colerain Township; 71391 Main St., Crescent, Colerain Township; Barton Colerain Road, Colerain Township.

A second group are at Belmont County Road 48, or Shaver Hill Road, in Mead Township; 56695 and 56691 Key-Bellaire Road in Pultney Township; 60572 Main St., Jacobsburg; 68240 Adolph St. and 55979 National Road in Pease Township; and 174 Bench St., Bridgeport.

A third group is in Bellaire. They are 4432 and 4216 Franklin St.; 1850 Guernsey St.; 122 Third Ave.; and 3720 Trumbull St.

A fourth group is in Martins Ferry. They are 430 N. Seventh St.; 121 N. EIghth St., and 522 N. Eighth St.

“We tried to spread out through the county a little bit more,” Hill said. “Previously with the (Neighborhood Initiative Program) funds, we had to pick our target areas which were Bellaire, Bridgeport, Ferry and Powhatan. This funding is county-wide. We can disperse it anywhere through the county, so we’ve tried to pick some other locations that some township trustees had reached out to us to ask us for some assistance.”

Hill said the properties would likely be bid for demolition in groups by city or township.

“We have until the end of February to get all the whole grant process finalized,” Hill said, adding that once the funding is secured, transferring the properties to the land bank would likely occur in March. “Then it all starts. They’ve got to be in our name first. … Once they’re in our names, we can start the asbestos evaluations and go from there. … The grant is for $500,000 initially, that’s why we only have about 21 properties.”

Hill said every county in the state is eligible for $500,000 for demolition of dilapidated structures.

“We’ve got to concentrate on that $500,000. There is a match for more once we spend that $500,000,” he said. Further funding would require a 25-percent match from the recipient for a project.

After this funding source runs out, there is no indication if more money for demolition could be available in the future.

“This will take us into 2023. After that, who knows?”

Hill said the property at 1850 Guernsey St. in Bellaire is one of the larger projects.

“It’s a huge, old abandoned school down in 1st Ward in Bellaire,” Hill said. “Not the 1st Ward school, but there’s another school down there in the south end of Bellaire that’s going to cost us a lot, so we had to be pretty conservative about how many properties we picked up. We don’t want to overshoot.”

Hill said the poor condition of the building put it on the land bank’s list.

“It’s an old school built in the 1800s and the whole front of it is collapsed,” Hill said. “It is a hazard.”

Hill added the former school had been used as an apartment building for a time after a new school replaced it, but when the owner died the building fell into disrepair.

“It’s a shame that they let it go and never got it on the registry of historic buildings, but it’s coming down. It needs to come down,” Bellaire Police Chief Dick Flanagan, who also serves as the village code enforcement officer, said of the structure. “Looking forward to getting that done so that nobody gets hurt and nobody loses any property down there. … Been trying to get it taken down for awhile, now it’s come to fruition. It’s going to happen, and I’m extremely pleased about it. … Due to the land bank’s involvement, helping and cooperation in this, we’ve been able to get quite a few buildings … taken down in Bellaire, and without their help I’d never have been able to get it done. The administration is very happy and thankful for the Belmont County land bank.”

The next land bank meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Feb. 10, a Thursday rather than the normal Tuesday, in the commissioners’ meeting room at the courthouse in St. Clairsville.

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