Fairfield County Land Bank Begins Demolitions (Lancaster Eagle Gazette)

LANCASTER — For the first time since its creation two years ago, the Fairfield County land bank has begun demolishing homes that were eyesores and rodent attractions in neighborhoods.

Four had come down as of Friday and another four will come down in the next three weeks.

“People in the neighborhoods have expressed how glad they are to see these buildings come down,” said Michael Kaper, executive director of the Fairfield County Land Reutilization Corp. “We are glad to see this start happening as well so the properties can once again be turned into something useful.”

The demolitions come after the land bank was able to obtain the properties through sheriff’s sales. Under the Ohio Revised Code, land banks operate as non-profit community land reutilization corporations.

One razed last week was at 523 Zane Ave.

Edna Friend, who lives across the street from the property, said she had lived there for 50 years and knew the owners for years.

“At one time it was a beautiful house with knotty pine ceilings and had a great big beautiful tree out front,” Friend said. “But it was left to rot. They took the pine out. It’s been a magnet for roaches, snakes and river rats. Definitely glad to see it come it down.”

For a blighted property to fall into the land bank’s hands, it has to go through the foreclosure process, either by the mortgage holder or the county board of revision. After that process is complete, the land bank can take the title to the property and sell it at a sheriff’s sale or demolish it. A land bank also can transfer the deed to a local government. A delinquent property owner could stop the proceedings by paying the back taxes and agreeing to improve the property.

The land bank is funded through an additional 5 percent fee on all delinquent real property tax collections along with delinquent manufactured and mobile home taxes and assessments. In 2014, the Fairfield County land bank was also awarded a $642,500 Neighborhood Initiative Program grant from the Ohio Hardest Hit Fund Project.

Donna Fox-Moore, program coordinator for the Lancaster-Fairfield Community Action Agency, said the land bank’s demolition program, coming on the heels of the Ohio Moving Forward demolition grant program last year, will help clean up eyesores in neighborhoods.

“With the money we have from the current grant, we should be able to bring down around 30 homes,” Fox-Moore said. “As conditions of the grant, the homes need to be in targeted areas and must be graded and seeded before we leave.”

The land bank had acquired a total of 11 homes in the initial round through sheriff’s sales.

“By next Wednesday’s sheriff’s sale we will have purchased a total of 24 houses,” Kaper said. “Most are in Lancaster but there are some in other parts of the county.”

For Mike Sasso, who has lived next to the demolished home on Zane Avenue since 2009, the program is a success.

“I knew the guy who used to live there, but it can’t be repaired. There are foundation problems. It’s simply not reparable,” Sasso said. “It brings in mice and rats and it’s time to come down. Now maybe something nice can come out of it.”

 

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