Lawrence County to Consider Establishing a Land Bank
Land Bank Update
May 11, 2016
IRONTON – Lawrence County could establish a land bank program that would buy up residential and commercial abandoned and dilapidated properties with the goal of getting them back on the tax rolls.
County Treasurer Steve Burcham proposed the land bank program at last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting, and it could be adopted at Thursday’s meeting in Ironton.
Thirty-one of Ohio’s 88 counties now have a land bank program, which first started in the state in Cuyahoga County about a decade ago, Burcham said. The land bank would have to be incorporated through the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, he said.
“It can benefit the county,” Burcham said Tuesday. “We could have it up and running by the end of the year.”
Commissioner Bill Pratt supports the land bank proposal and expects the board to adopt a resolution establishing it during the board’s meeting later this week.
“I think it will give us the tools we need to clear up dilapidated or abandoned properties,” Pratt said. “There is $180 million in state funds we could tap into. It could provide more money for local schools when properties are back on the tax rolls.”
The county tries to set aside funds to tear down abandoned properties, but those funds are drying up, Pratt said. Five years ago, the county annually received about $250,000 in community development block grant funds, but that federal money has been cut to about $140,000 per year, he said.
The program would be called the Lawrence County Land Revitalization Corporation, Pratt said.
The state legislature changed the law to allow smaller counties to start land bank programs, Burcham said. Initially, only the state’s largest counties could start such programs, he said.
“They found it helped revitalize some neighborhoods,” Burcham said.
Under state law, the county treasurer, two county commissioners or their designees, a representative from Ironton and a representative from Upper Township would make up the five-member board to oversee the land bank, he said.
The board would have to hire an administrator to do title searches, evaluate properties and apply for grants, Burcham said.
The county has about 1,000 parcels on delinquent tax rolls and that could represent hundreds of thousands of dollars if the properties are improved and put back on the tax rolls, he said.
Mortgaged properties that have been foreclosed on and owned by banks also could be donated to the land bank, he said.
Some counties just use the land bank program to tear down fire-damaged or abandoned properties, Burcham said.
“I would want us to move beyond that,” he said. “I would want us to make that property available for development.”
Source: The Herald-Dispatch