WILMINGTON — A “land bank” may be on the horizon for Clinton County.
A land bank is a private, non-profit corporation that deals with vacant, abandoned properties and tax-delinquent properties. Clinton County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Taylor Stuckert said in a Monday meeting with county commissioners that such problem properties can be found throughout the county.
In providing background on the topic, Stuckert said Clinton County had 1,965 foreclosures initiated from 2008 through 2014.
“In addition to the foreclosure crisis, local economic challenges have led to vacant and abandoned properties being observed in every part of the county,” said Stuckert.
Presently, options to address those problem properties are “limited,” he said.
The properties create public nuisances, hurt nearby property values, gather tax debt, “and become less and less likely to ever see investment,” said Stuckert.
The benefits of county land banks include taking control of the problem properties, re-purposing properties through demolition or rehabilitation, transferring properties to qualified end-users, putting abandoned properties back on the tax rolls, and acquiring vacant bank-owned houses (post-foreclosure), according to a PowerPoint presented previously by Stuckert.
“We view it as something that could clean up a lot at first, and then maybe become a little more passive beyond that,” Stuckert said.
A land bank is capable of removing tax liens on a property, and then sell it to a new property owner, he said.
About $347 million in federal funds through the Hardest Hit Fund have been made available in Ohio, almost exclusively to county land banks, according to Stuckert.
A county the size of Clinton County should expect about $500,000 of those funds for acquisition, demolition and greening of blighted properties, Stuckert reported.
The county will need about $20,000 to $25,000 in initial spending for consulting services and to cover basic costs including an incorporation fee. The most common form of funding a land bank is through the Delinquent Tax and Assessment Collection Fee.
Assistant Clinton County Prosecutor Andrew McCoy, who serves as the county’s legal counsel, said townships as a political entity already have the authority to condemn a property and to require demolition, but often don’t have the dollars available to pay for demolition.
A land bank might give such a township the financial means to fund a demolition, according to McCoy.
Stuckert spoke with the county commissioners because they are the ones who can form a land bank for the county and designate it as an agent of the county.
Commissioners indicated they will review the possibility.
The Rev. Dr. Tom Stephenson, pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Columbus Street in Wilmington, was present Monday. He said that without knowing all the details, he wanted to speak in favor of commissioners looking seriously at creating a land bank.
Stephenson also said there is a blighted property on Columbus Street the church would like to acquire.
On another matter, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said he had reached out to members of the senior services board which has not met for about 18 months in the wake of litigation that took place between Community Action of Clinton County and the Council on Aging, he said.
Having an active board, said Steed, is important, and the board can be a voice for seniors to the commissioners office with regard to the services provided to them in the community.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.