Lucas County would get a land bank - the second of its kind in Ohio - aimed at turning the county's growing inventory of abandoned and foreclosed property to good use, under legislation pending before the county board of commissioners this morning.
If the Lucas County Land Reutilization Corp. gets a vote of approval from the board of commissioners, the
new entity would have the power to acquire, market, and maintain properties that sit neglected.
The funds to run the land bank would come from an increase in the interest rate charged to delinquent taxpayers.
Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz said the new entity would be able to cut to 90 days the usual process of moving tax-delinquent properties through the courts and to sheriff's auctions. It now can take up to two years.
"This program does a number of good things," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. "Most importantly it's going to raise property values across the board for citizens of Lucas County whether or not they're facing foreclosure."
The program was approved in largely bipartisan votes in both houses of the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ted Strickland this year.
It is modeled after the land bank established in Flint, Mich., and is an expansion of the program that was begun in Cuyahoga County in 2009.
Under the legislation, the interest rate charged to delinquent property tax payers would rise to a maximum of 12 percent annually from the current 4 or 5 percent.
The fund is estimated to collect about $1.5 million a year from that source, which is expected to be added to from grants and revenue from the sales of property, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
Commissioner Pete Gerken said the goal is to clean up abandoned properties that bring down the values of neighboring parcels.
"What we're looking to do with this is it will shorten the time frame that houses will be delinquent and hopefully shorten the period of time that they can do damage to a neighborhood," Mr. Gerken said.
The land bank also would be able to accept properties that are foreclosed as a result of mortgage default and could accept any of the hundreds of vacant or abandoned properties that the city has acquired.
The city sells the properties it owns when requested but doesn't have the resources to market, maintain, or, if needed, demolish the houses it owns, officials said.
After the commissioners vote on two resolutions, several public events are planned involving representatives of the Center for Community Progress, of Washington, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
Dan Kildee, who as treasurer of Genesee County, Michigan, where Flint is located, pioneered the concept of an active land bank in 2002, is scheduled to address local officials in a briefing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Toledo City Council chambers in Government Center.
Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop said he, too, will vote to establish the land bank, but said it bears close monitoring as it evolves
"There are some issues with it of oversight and accountability to make sure there's no sweetheart deals to developers," Mr. Konop said.
"It's going to be a pretty sizable pool of funds. It's hard to say what the results will be. Whatever we're doing now is minimal and it's not working."
Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak could not be reached for comment.
The corporation would be run by a board of five to nine members, to include, by statute, two county commissioners, the county treasurer as chairman, the mayor of Toledo, an appointee from Sylvania Township, and someone with real-estate or development experience.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the entity would have a full-time staff of one or two, compared with 16 on the staff of the Cuyahoga County land bank.
Terry Glazer, chief executive officer of the United North community development corporation that redevelops declining neighborhoods in North Toledo, said the additional resources are welcome.
He said his group and others will look to the land bank to help develop construction and rehabilitation projects in targeted areas rather than in random vacant lots.
"It's not going to be the sole savior of neighborhoods. It's going to help, obviously, with vacant property," Mr. Glazer said.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the fund probably would build an inventory of a couple hundred properties initially - starting Tuesday - and would market them to groups or developers who have an end use in mind. He said both Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and Toledo Hospital have expressed interest in acquiring property.