GALLIPOLIS — Representatives from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy met with Gallia Commissioners Thursday during their regular meeting in the Gallia Courthouse to discuss the potential for creating a Gallia County Land Bank in hopes of rehabilitating and redeveloping rural properties in an area plagued by real estate in disrepair or abandonment.
The conservancy is a nonprofit organization with the mission of preserving land through conservation, restoration and efforts to revitalize communities.
“We repurpose properties in typically two ways,” said Jim Rokakis, Western Reserve Land Conservancy vice president, director of thriving communities. “We either find the money to take it down or find someone who’s willing to come in and make the repairs. For every three we’ve been taking down, about one gets rehabbed because when a land bank takes property they eliminate all the deficiencies in the title. They take care of all the delinquent taxes and all the liens and imperfections in the title. So, when you get a property from a land bank, the title is clean. It’s important. If you’re in the real estate business, you’re not going to invest money in a property you don’t have a clean title on.”
Rokakis emphasized that properties purchased with clean titles can contribute to tax revenue and contribute to the value of properties surrounding it.
“We’ve been exploring this since 2015,” said Commissioner Harold Montgomery. “It’s something we’ll look at very closely. It’s a tool that maybe we can use to clean up some blighted areas… It’ll encompass the whole county.”
Reportedly, the land bank would be a quasi-governmental entity with area officials on its five-person board, should the organization be created, said commissioners. Two county commissioners and the county treasurer would be part of it as mandated by the Ohio Revised Code, said Montgomery. Two other board members would be appointed, one from the largest municipality and the other decided “at large.” More board members could potentially be added. Five members are the minimum.
“A lot of these are properties where taxes and liens are owed on them,” said Montgomery. “They could be foreclosed and put on the courthouse steps to sell but they can’t sell because too much is owed on them. If you can wipe all that out, you can get those sold and get something back on the tax books.“
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.