Community leasing deal proposed for Palestine

EAST PALESTINE – The village and its residents could reap rewards by combining residential and municipal property for oil and gas leasing, Don Elzer believes.

The councilman said last week he has spoken to oil and gas companies which have indicated they would be interested in leasing property in town if it were combined.

Elzer said he did the math on the village’s roughly three square miles and if every piece of property was leased for $4,000 per acre that would generate up to $8 million in signing bonus revenue alone.

Of that, the village would get around $1 million, with the rest divided among property owners, he said.

The smallest lots in town are approximately 50- by 150- feet and those property owners would receive $750 in signing bonus money, he explained.

Elzer has said several times over the last year oil and gas drilling companies are not interested in leasing small pieces of land right now and the village could benefit by offering a large chunk of land.

Council has offered municipal property to companies over the last few years for the roughly 140 acres of park land and a portion of the cemetery, but there was little interest and no suitable leases offered.

Elzer said if the entire village was offered, companies would bite.

“What we could do for our economy is staggering. If we put them together as a group we have something we can market,” he said.

That combined property would also include vacant lots and alleys, he explained.

He has already asked Village Manager Pete Monteleone to look into purchasing a CD from the county that identifies all property owners in town, so they can get the word out and see if there is an interest.

Combining the residential and municipal property would have to be done on a volunteer basis for legal reasons, Village Solicitor Shirley Smith cautioned.

“Each contract would be independent,” she said, adding landowners could not be forced to sign their properties over.

Elzer said landowners would have the option to offer their land and the village’s only involvement is “putting a group together,” not awarding any contracts.

“I think once we get the ball rolling the oil companies will come and talk to us,” he said.

He and village officials will begin speaking to landowners to see if they are interested, and at some point they will be asked to sign a letter of intent. Once everyone has been contacted and if there is enough land offered, then the village would contact oil and gas companies to see about a lease, he said.

Smith said she has been leasing properties for people through her private practice and some landowners have received $3,500 per acre.