WILMINGTON — When the calendar soon turns to the month of June, multiple vacant lots owned by the Clinton County Land Bank will become available to buy, and it’s hoped will then be put to productive uses after purchase.
Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Justin Dickman, who handles the Clean Up Clinton County program, updated county commissioners recently and described the land-owning opening as exciting news.
The reason for an influx of properties becoming available is due to a specific form of funding the land bank received, which meant a certain amount of time had to pass before those lots were eligible for disposition.
The land bank’s website at clintoncountylandbank.com shows 10 lots in municipalities around Clinton County becoming available in June; seven more lots in August (six of them in towns); and 14 more lots becoming available in December (all of them in towns).
With these properties and their photos posted on the website, Dickman said the land bank is looking for engagement from the general public.
To access the list which includes the month when availability starts, click on “Properties” at the top of the land bank website’s home page.
Meanwhile, the land bank has three newly acquired sites that have existing structures on them, reported Dickman. Those are: one on the 8000 block of U.S. Route 68, one on Woodview Drive in Wilmington, and one on the 100 block of South Broadway Street in Midland.
When those three properties were recently slated for auction at a sheriff sale in the Clinton County Courthouse, nobody bid on them, Dickman told commissioners.
“So they were automatically transferred to the land bank upon motion from our [county prosecutor’s] office,” he said.
The three structures are expected to be unoccupied by the end of the week, Dickman said May 19.
Back in February, he explained that the reason why particular properties in the process will go to a sheriff’s sale is because those properties are occupied.
“And while we don’t want to kick people out of their houses, I think that it’s important to be serious,” said Dickman in February.
Dickman elaborated in February that people are required to pay their taxes and to comply with local zoning, “and if you don’t do that we’re going to move forward and your properties are going to go up for a sheriff’s sale.”
There was a blighted property on Jordan Street in Reesville that was readied for a sheriff’s sale, but the property now is cleaned up, the taxes are paid, and it’s close to being sold.
“Ideally, that’s what we want,” Dickman said at the May update.
He said it’s anticipated that four Lumberton-area structures on three parcels will be demolished by early June.
Also, there are two pending default judgements, one on Luttrell Road and one on South Wall Street in Wilmington. Because the owners are either deceased or have indicated they don’t want to fight it, it’s anticipated the two properties will be transferred to the land bank in the near future, said the assistant prosecutor.
Dickman also said four cases alleging zoning violations recently were filed: one on Frazier Road around Midland; two along State Route 72 in Wilson Township; and another along Route 22 in Richland Township.
A couple property owners on Nance Road in Wayne Township did bring their properties into compliance after a zoning case was filed against them, he said. These settlements occurred after both sides in the matter came to terms on the cleanup and the costs associated with that.
As part of the Clean Up Clinton County initiative the past two months, new foreclosures were filed on a Broadway Street property in Midland and on real estate along North Mulberry Street in Wilmington.
Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew T. McCoy attended the commissioners meeting with Dickman.
McCoy said the prosecutor office’s goal is to try to get a lot of the property owners to do the right thing without taking the issue to the punitive stage; or as a second option if they can, to allow the private market to remediate it.
Only when those first two options appear they won’t be successful, then the prosecutor’s office tries to take a comprehensive approach, whether it’s foreclosure, whether they’re doing deed-in-lieu payment plans, or working through the zoning filings.
“Just trying to figure out which tool works. We’re not using a blunt hammer every time; we’re looking at each subject property and figuring out what is going to be the best strategy to attack this property,” McCoy said.
Concerted efforts in the Clean Up Clinton County initiative began in early 2020, a few weeks before the pandemic. During the county budget season in fall 2019, commissioners saw to it that the county prosecutor’s office was provided enough added funds to hire a new attorney to help enforce a cleanup project.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.