WILMINGTON — The first meeting of a Clinton County “land bank” board may only be a month or so away.
On Wednesday, Clinton County commissioners authorized the county treasurer to file articles of incorporation with the state to form a county land re-utilization corporation (LRC), often called a land bank.
A land bank’s purpose is to clean up blighted properties, clearing the way for the land to be re-utilized. The properties typically are heavily tax delinquent or have assessments against them.
“There’s some reason that the market is not moving these properties,” said Clinton County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Taylor Stuckert following his appointment on the topic with commissioners.
Often that reason stems from financial obligations that would come with purchasing the property.
“In addition to the cost of cleaning up the blight, there may be tax delinquencies and assessments that nobody wants to take on,” he said.
Previously, there basically have been two tools to deal with abandoned properties here, according to Stuckert.
There was the temporary Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program — launched in February 2012 — that used funds from a federal-state settlement agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses and fraud, and unacceptable nationwide mortgage practices.
Aside from that, Clinton County relies almost entirely on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to clean up blighted properties — but that avenue can involve just one or two properties a year.
“That’s the idea [of a land bank], that we’ll be able to take care of more of these issues at once,” Stuckert said.
To help fund local land bank operations, the delinquent tax and assessment collection fee may be raised 5 percent. The fee comes out of the delinquent taxes collected by the county.
Stuckert said in his discussions with various local agencies and institutions, he found unanimous support for a land bank. Those include the City of Wilmington, county villages, Clinton County Community Improvement Corporation, Port Authority, County Foundation, and existing financial institutions — the Wilmington Savings Bank, Peoples, and Liberty Savings.
Stuckert has met with the county commissioners because they’re the ones who can form a land bank for the county and designate it as an agent of the county.
At the Wednesday commissioners session, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said he is “a big advocate” for the program, adding it will be “one of the most valuable tools” to reduce “dangerous and unwanted blight within the county.”
When Stuckert addressed commissioners in mid-March, he said, “We view it as something that could clean up a lot at first, and then maybe become a little more passive beyond that.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.