Land Bank Plan May be Headed to County
Updated 5/9/16: The Chillicothe Gazette published an article titled County offers tentative land bank support.
Link to article
Land Bank Update
April 4, 2016
CHILLICOTHE – A City Council committee agreed Monday night that the city should move forward with an approach to the county to establish a Ross County Land Reutilization Corporation dealing with abandoned and tax-delinquent properties.
Members of the Land Bank Committee, chaired by councilman Josh Cartee and including fellow council members Pat Patrick and David Tatman, conducted Monday’s meeting to review a Chillicothe-specific report created by Jim Rokakis, vice president of the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and prepare talking points for a formal approach to the county.
A county is the only entity that can establish a land bank under Ohio law, with the county treasurer serving as the incorporating authority. A land bank, examples of which operate in 29 Ohio counties, creates a process to acquire tax-delinquent properties more quickly than through traditional tax foreclosure procedures and uses grant funding to demolish, rehabilitate or redistribute the property to someone who will put it to good use. It also can be used with properties that are not tax delinquent if the owner is willing to donate or otherwise transfer ownership to the land bank.
A land bank would not be used to address nuisance properties in the city as Chillicothe already has ordinances on the books that deal with nuisance issues.
The committee noted several positives that can be presented to the Ross County commissioners in favor of establishing a land bank, not the least of which is being able to address some of the boarded-up and dilapidated properties more quickly.
It also stated that since the city would be the primary beneficiary of such an arrangement, it should bear the bulk of what’s believed to be a limited cost — some of which could come from grant funding — for hiring at least a part-time program administrator and for administering the program itself.
The county would benefit from additional property taxes — where it is getting none now — from tax-delinquent properties when they are rehabilitated or otherwise reused, and termination language could be built into the contract that could easily dissolve the land bank if economic conditions change or the number of abandoned properties drops to a point where it is no longer needed. Both could be attractive selling points in favor of establishing one, committee members and some other council members in attendance stated.
Committee members also addressed a concern that was brought up regarding whether the land bank is given the authority to foreclose on a tax-delinquent property without any due process. The owner of a tax-delinquent property would be notified of the land bank’s intent and be given time to get current on the taxes if he or she wants to keep the property.
As discussions move forward, several points were brought up for future consideration by committee members, other council members and those in the audience, including:
- What policies can be put in place to make sure those who acquire property from the land bank take action to improve it in a timely fashion.
- Whether a restriction should be enacted that would keep properties acquired for reuse from becoming rentals, a consideration that met with some opposition during the meeting.
- Whether the administrator position should be hired as a contract administrator to save on employment costs.
- What should be done about tax-delinquent properties that are being lived in if they are not uninhabitable.
The next steps, should the city get the county to sign off on the land bank, would be to establish its policies and procedures and file the necessary contracts and agreements with the state, followed by applying for a grant from a Hardest Hit Fund that is only available to counties with land banks.
If the grant isn’t awarded, the land bank could be easily dissolved, creating a situation in favor of proceeding that committee members said involves a great deal of potential reward with low risk.
Source: Chillicothe Gazette