Lake County land bank gains traction (The News-Herald)

Lake County leaders are looking to create a county land bank to help deal with foreclosed and abandoned properties.

County land banks are entrepreneurial organizations that combine attributes of a government entity and a private enterprise, and they are not county agencies, officials have said.

Land banks have a mission to accumulate vacant and abandoned properties by various and versatile methods. Once accumulated, the property can be held by the county land bank, tax free, until the land can be put back to productive use.

Land banks are in place in Cuyahoga County, and some other counties such as Lucas, Montgomery and Trumbull.

According to state law, establishment of a county land bank is something that could be done by county commissioners, who would need to pass a resolution to create it. The county treasurer would incorporate it, and then a board of directors would be created.

That board — composed of the county treasurer, two commissioners, a member from the largest city, a township member and others chosen by agreement of treasurer and two commissioners — then would create a land utilization plan for adoption by county commissioners and implement programming activities.

Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis has pitched the idea in numerous places, including last fall at a Lake County Mayors and City Managers Association meeting, and has discussed the situation on “60 Minutes”.

Lake County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy has been among the people who advocate the idea.

“I think we need to get moving on this land bank operation,” Troy said Tuesday at the commissioners meeting in Painesville. “I think the sooner we get that in place, the better off we are.”

Commissioners Raymond E. Sines and Robert E. Aufuldish agreed.

“It would be, I think, great for the county to look at this to set the program up,” Sines said. “If the funds become available there are some blighted areas and some nasty situations.”

Deputy Treasurer John Rogers has worked on the initiative for Treasurer John Crocker and Rogers has made several presentations within the county.

The idea received unanimous support from the Lake County Township Association and from communities including Willowick and Painesville, and has pending support from Eastlake, Rogers said.

“Hopefully we can get this thing going and hope it can be helpful in cleaning up some properties and vacant homes,” he said.

Funding for the program would come from a portion of fees generated by foreclosures and from delinquent property tax collection and ideally is self-sustaining, Rogers said.

U.S. Reps. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township, and Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, announced Monday they are sponsoring legislation to provide $4 billion in federal funding dedicated for demolition of vacant and abandoned homes.

LaTourette said those dollars could be used by entities such as a county land bank.

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