Funding constraints limit demolition of blighted properties

By Kyle Shaner -

SIDNEY – Funding constraints are limiting the ability of the Shelby County Land Reutilization Corp. to demolish blighted properties this year and continue to prevent clean-up work at the former Wagner foundry in Sidney.

Shelby County’s Land Bank has exhausted its funding from the Neighborhood Initiative Project, Shelby County Land Bank Director Doug Ahlers said during Tuesday’s monthly meeting. The goal of the NIP, a program of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, is to stabilize property values by removing and greening vacant and blighted properties in an effort to prevent future foreclosures for existing homeowners.

Shelby County still could receive NIP money if other land banks don’t use all their funds, but it’s unlikely to be much if any, Ahlers said.

“They’ve told us there’s no money, but we do have some properties in a waiting list,” he said. “If a land bank does not fulfill their contract and use the money, it will go back in the general fund. I don’t anticipate there being a large amount going into that fund, but we are asking for it if we can get it.”

Because of the lack of funding, the Shelby County Land Bank declined to accept the donation of a property at 414 N. Miami Ave. in Sidney that was hit by lightning. If NIP funding was still available, Ahlers said, he would have accepted the donation.

“As you know, our funding is haphazard,” Ahlers said. “I don’t know that we want to accept donations of property if we don’t have the money to tear it down.”

The challenges the Land Bank face are similar to those that have prevented the former Wagner foundry from being demolished.

“It’s funding,” Shelby County Commissioner Bob Guillozet said. “If funding was not a problem, it would be down.

“The Wagner building is definitely an eyesore. I think it’s a detriment to the public, but unless we can come up with someway to fund getting it down, I don’t know what we’re going to do with it.”

Part of the Wagner building collapsed on Christmas Day, which necessitated some clearing of debris, but a complete teardown of the property could cost millions of dollars.

In December, Sidney Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth said demolishing the Wagner property and remediating the environmental hazards to make it redevelopment-ready has been estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million. Necessary soil remediation is estimated to cost an additional $350,000 to $600,000, she said.

“There’s a lot of places I could spend $2 million, and I really don’t want to do it there,” Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst said.

For months, Ahlers has monitored Ohio’s House Bill 252, which would provide funding for industrial demolition. The bill, if passed, would provide matching funds for land reutilization.

“You’ve still got to come up with a million dollars yourself to get the million from them,” Treasurer John Coffield said in reference to the potential Wagner building demolition.

Shelby County officials are pessimistic about the prospects of House Bill 252 being passed.

“My sources tell me that 252 is not going anywhere,” Barhorst said. “It’s sitting in the House, and it’s going to die there. It’s not moved.”

Ahlers said there hasn’t been much progress at the state level in funding the demolition of blighted residential properties, either.

“The only thing I’ve got to hang my hat on is one of (Gov. Mike DeWine’s) close assistants was involved in Moving Ohio Forward and has a soft spot for this stuff,” Ahlers said.

Shelby County’s Land Bank will continue to monitor potential funding and in the meantime will focus on properties that won’t be a financial burden to the organization.

“We can still get things done,” Ahlers said. “If I can find a couple we can flip and make money, that would be good, too.”

The Land Bank is in the process of demolishing a property at 227-231 S. Miami Ave. in Sidney. A lot of asbestos has been removed, Ahlers said, at a cost of $6,800. In total, demolition of the property will be $28,236.90.

“We’ll be asking the city to adjoin with us in some of that,” Ahlers said. “The bigger they are, the more they cost, and that’s a very large property and a lot of asbestos has kicked that cost up on that one.”

Shelby County’s Land Bank has five properties in various stages of foreclosure in Sidney, Port Jefferson, Maplewood, Jackson Center and Plattsville.

The Land Bank’s next meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4 in the County Annex.

By Kyle Shaner

Reach this writer at or 937-538-4824.

Reach this writer at or 937-538-4824.