By Nathan Pilling
XENIA — Community members provided mixed input to county officials Tuesday at sessions about the possible establishment of a land bank for Greene County.
While some praised the idea, which county officials have previously classified as a way to address blighted properties in Greene County, others criticized the plan, classifying it as “more bureaucracy.”
The land bank would act as a “pass through” entity that could acquire properties that were at least two years tax delinquent, clear them of those back taxes and turn the property over to a previously identified end user, according to Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson.
“We have a lot of properties within the county that the free market has not been able to rectify,” he said in a previous interview with this newspaper. “We have properties that are tax delinquent, and the amount of taxes due on the property doesn’t make it feasible for a developer to acquire the property, pay the back taxes, renovate or demolish and rebuild on the property.”
Xenia City Planner Brian Forschner spoke in favor of the idea Tuesday on behalf of city staff, saying that the land bank would cost “very little” and could result in a financial gain to local communities in the long term by reducing tax delinquency and increasing property values.
“The current system is simply not working,” he said. “No private party wants these properties due to back taxes and clouded titles. Many of their owners cannot even be reached. These properties will continue to sit and be a drain on resources for all levels of government, as well as the value and quality of life for surrounding neighborhoods, if we continue on our current path.”
Fairborn city representative Missy Frost also praised the idea, saying that the process would create redevelopment opportunities, “which ultimately will lead to a strong Greene County for all residents,” she said.
Some who spoke at the meeting, including Greene County resident Christ Georgakas, classified the land bank as “another level of bureaucracy.”
“They say, ‘Well, it’s not going to cost. It’s going to save money,’” he said. “I can’t remember any government program that was going to save money. That’s ridiculous.”
Xenia resident and real estate investor Diana Steen, opposed the idea, calling land banks a “political remedy to a problem and set of conditions caused by prior political decisions.”
Yellow Springs resident Marlene Johnson joined the voices in opposition: “The housing bubble is over, building is at a peak right now in the county and the prices are stabilizing, if not going up,” she said. “This problem is no longer in existence.”
Under draft legislation for the corporation, a project committee, made up of the county commissioners, the county treasurer, as well as representatives from the cities of Beavercreek, Fairborn and Xenia, in addition to one township representative and one representative from the balance of the political subdivisions in the county, would have the full authority to take action on the projects brought to the land bank.
Draft legislation for the corporation limits the number of properties the land bank could own to six per municipality and 20 on the aggregate.
The draft legislation for the corporation also contains a sunset provision, which would terminate the land bank after five years unless the Greene County Board of Commissioners voted to extend its life.
Reach Nathan Pilling at 937-502-4498 or on Twitter @XDGNatePilling.