Land Bank continues to remove blighted properties from Shelby County

SIDNEY — The Shelby County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank) has experienced another busy year. A total of 95 properties have been acquired in the municipalities of Sidney, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, Lockington, Maplewood, Port Jefferson and Botkins. In addition, 14 properties in Cynthian, Dinsmore, Franklin, Green Loramie, McLean and Salem townships have also been acquired. Sixty-eight of those properties have already been disbursed, with some being sold for rehabilitation but the majority having been demolished before the properties transferred to new owners.

Director Doug Ahlers has submitted the following report:

Perhaps the most exciting news has been that the board of the Land Bank has continued to inch closer and closer to the eventual demolition of the former Wagner Manufacturing complex. Grants have been secured totaling $4,565,000. This is the estimated cost for the rremediation of pollutants, demolition of the buildings, and removal of the debris. Funding has come from the Ohio Department of Development ($2,845,000), the State of Ohio Capital Budget ($1,000,000), the City of Sidney ($500,000), and Shelby County ($250,000).

There are those who have asked what has taken so long to remove a property that has been abandoned for some years, and certainly that’s a fair question. Securing funding for the demolition – all tax dollars that could have been spent on other far more glamorous projects, has consumed time. Not wanting to get “the cart before the horse”, the Land Bank Board did not want to foreclose on the property until we had secured the funds for demolition. Once foreclosed, the property became our responsibility.

The legal work necessary for foreclosure in this case took time. The owner simply abandoned the property, leaving it the responsibility of someone else. The financial institution that loaned the owner the funds to purchase the property refused to foreclose not wanting the responsibility for cleaning up any hidden environmental issues.

If that were not enough, the Wagner complex was constructed over a number of decades, and eventually consisted of 16 buildings. Those buildings were constructed on 28 different parcels of land. Those parcels bisected by a number of alleyways.

In fact, an application has been filed with the City of Sidney to replat the 28 lots into one parcel and to abandon the alleyways on the property. All of those things take time.

The City Planning Commission will consider the items in February, and if all goes as anticipated, the matters will be on Sidney’s City Council calendar in March. If everything moves on schedule, we anticipate demolition will still occur in the first half of the year. Once the property has been cleared, the Land Bank will endeavor to find an end-user.

There is additional good news. Eight properties in the city of Sidney have been sold to a developer who plans to construct in-fill housing. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

An additional lot in Sidney has been donated to Habitat for Humanity. Groundbreaking for that build took place in November.

Other properties have been demolished and donated to government or non-profit entities. Properties have been donated to the villages of Port Jefferson, Jackson Center, Fort Loramie, anther to the Green Township Trustees, another to Ohio History Connection and still another to Holy Angels Church.

From the time the Land Bank was established, we have worked to acquire, temporarily manage, and subsequently dispose of properties for the purpose of stabilizing neighborhoods. The end goal is that the properties are re-used and hopefully redeveloped.

Since its inception, the Land Bank has made a significant contribution to Shelby County. Certainly I thank all of those who have contributed to our success. I especially want to thank our board members including Chair and County Commissioner Bob Guillozet, Vice Chair and City Councilmember Mike Barhorst, Land Bank Treasurer and Shelby County Treasurer John Coffield, Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann, Sidney City Manager Andrew Bowsher, Mike Goubeaux, Linda Meininger, Dave Voisard and Roger Wehrman.