Recently, the Scioto County Commissioners acted on a couple of measures aimed at improving the county.
First, the commissioners passed the first of two resolutions necessary to establish a Scioto County Land Bank. Then, the commissioners also announced the restructuring of the Scioto County Office of Economic Development. The office has been renamed the Scioto County Regional Planning Commission.
Leaders throughout Scioto County have been meeting and discussing the possibility of establishing a land bank in Scioto County. Leaders also discussed what advantages there are to a county land band and what funding would be available.
At the last meeting, officials discussed the urgency of action. It was stated, a land band would need to be established in the next four thru six weeks to apply for potentially millions in funding.
The resolution passed by the commissioners called the incorporation of the Scioto County Land Reutilization Corporation.
Once the corporation has been established, the commissioners are anticipated to pass a second resolution naming the corporation the authoritative body to handle the counties blighted housing stock, with the goal of eventually putting it back on the tax rolls.
According to released information from the commissioners, once established, Scioto County will have the 29th county land bank in the state and the first in South Central/South Eastern Ohio.
The Scioto Foundation has offered to pay the startup costs of the land bank, as a grant to the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) and SOPA has volunteered to administer the land bank once established.
The foundation are also paid the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to serve as consultants to SOPA and the land bank.
Over the last three years, SOPA has taken a bigger role in economic development for the county.
With that in mind the commissioners decided to restructure their economic development office.
The office will be located on Court Street and will continue with current responsibilities of providing and facilitating services which support and manage flood plain regulations, subdivisions, zoning, subdivision of land and land development among many other things, according to information from the commissioners.
Jason Kester, Executive Director of SOPA defined a land bank as, “a community organization that deals with blighted houses. One of the things we identified with the America’s Best Communities Grant as a weakness of our community was the lack of recreational opportunities and lack of entry level housing.”
Kester said you can find communities of higher value housing and you can find communities of blighted housing.
“We have an issue in housing. There are over 3,000 blighted houses in Scioto County. How to address that issue has been identified (as a need of the community),” Kester said.
The land bank once established will be able to acquire and consolidate vacant parcels of land through purchases, donates or intergovernmental transfer from foreclosure. The land bank will be able to clear title to land and prepare parcels for transfer to a third party for redevelopment or reuse.
According to the commissioners, Scioto County has many vacant structures.
“Many in deplorable condition. This initiative will allow us to stabilize our housing base by eliminating blight and removing uninhabitable or functionally obsolete housing,” the commission said.
The Scioto County Regional Planning Commission will be lead by Michele Throckmorton as Planning Commission Assistant Director and Angie Malone will serve as Planning Commission Assistant Director.
The commissioners believe, by working with SOPA, the City of Portsmouth, Village of New Boston and other villages and townships throughout the county, the Scioto County Land Reutilization Corporation will be an indispensable tool for land rehabilitation and economic development now and in the future.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT