Land bank is a good idea

Columbiana County’s landscape may be blemished with fewer dilapidated buildings in the future thanks to the creation of a land bank by county commissioners.

Commissioners voted last week to create the Land Reutilization Corp. after recently meeting with representatives from local communities to discuss the idea. By creating the land bank, the county will be able to quickly acquire and demolish dilapidated and abandoned buildings subject to mortgage and delinquent real estate tax foreclosures. According to Commissioner Mike Halleck, there is widespread support among the other county communities.

In addition to acquiring and demolishing abandoned buildings, the LRC can acquire property as part of an economic development project and seek state or federal funds to assist with its redevelopment.

The whole point of the program is to work with communities in eliminating abandoned homes and other properties that have become eyesores and public nuisances, county Development Director Tad Herold said.

Although the land bank’s action may result in an increase of vacant lots which will not produce property tax as part of the land bank, vacant foreclosures don’t pay much if any taxes either. And empty buildings may become havens for drug use and other criminal activity, not to mention becoming a shelter for stray animals and rodents.

After the property has been acquired and cleaned up it can be redeveloped for residential or commercial purposes.

County commissioners may pay for the first year of the program themselves, but creation of the land bank allows them to take up to 5 percent of delinquent property tax collections for the land bank.

The program appears to be a good way to start cleaning up some of the vacant and abandoned homes created by the national foreclosure crisis of the late 2000s. We encourage all county communities to participate.