Commissioners create Land Bank to address distressed properties

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BATAVIA, OH – The Board of County Commissioners Wednesday strengthened Clermont County’s ability to address distressed properties, improve safety and elevate quality of life by voting to create the Clermont County Land Bank. The quasi-government entity would work to return derelict, abandoned and non-tax producing properties back to the market by remediating issues that make them undesirable.

“Numerous local municipalities, townships and community leaders have expressed enthusiastic support for a Land Bank in Clermont County,” said Michael McNamara, the county’s Economic Development Director. “A land bank helps reduce blight, improve the quality of life, reduce fire and police calls, and promote a safer and cleaner neighborhood.”

A Land Bank, officially referred to as a land reutilization corporation, is a nonprofit organization with its own board of directors. The bank can include five, seven or nine members, including two county commissioners and the county treasurer. They typically include city and township representatives. They are funded by grants and delinquent tax assessment collections.

As of March, 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties had Land Banks. The first was launched in Cuyahoga County in 2009 in response to the foreclosure crisis resulting from the Great Recession.

Some county Land Banks purchase distressed areas and repackage them for development free of liens and ownership battles. This can include demolishing or rehabbing buildings.

Ohio counties each will receive $1 million in Brownfield remediation funds and $500,000 for distressed residential properties. Clermont County’s Land Bank would be perfectly positioned to serve as the county’s agent for these efforts.

Wednesday’s resolution formed the Clermont County Land Reutilization Corporation (LRC) and requested that the County Treasurer file Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State. Once the Land Bank is formed, the LRC will be designated as agent for the county in a separate resolution. The Land Bank will create an agreement and plan for consideration by the Board of County Commissioners. Then, the Land Bank will begin operations.

The Land Bank will make decisions with guidance from the Department of Community and Economic Development, which will prioritize properties identified as issues in communities. Community Development will vet the properties to make sure they meet eligibility requirements. The department’s GIS team will help in the strategic process by creating map overlays that may include distressed properties, 911 calls, low and moderate income areas and delinquent properties.  Mapping critical data will allow the land bank to see where the most distressed areas of the county are.

“We’re excited about the possibilities that a Land Bank would bring to Clermont County,” said Claire Corcoran, President, Board of County Commissioners. “This is yet another way that we can work to make Clermont County a better place to live, work and do business.”

“A Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank) is dedicated to revitalizing properties and bringing challenged land parcels back into the market,” Commissioner David Painter said. “A Land Bank can acquire/consolidated vacant parcels, clear title to land, or prioritize land for disposition or reuse by a third party.  In addition, a Land Bank provides the county and other local governments a financial tool for performing this type of work that currently doesn’t exist.”

“We’re grateful to our Economic Development team for advancing the Land Bank in our county,” Commissioner Bonnie Batchler said. “We foresee a time when the Land Bank will help turn blighted areas into desirable locations for doing business or residing.”