The Highland County Land Reutilization Corporation (land bank) offered new updates on its two grant programs at its monthly meeting Wednesday morning.
Matt Wagner, a certified professional with Tetra Tech, said that last month he received word that round two funding was approved for the Brownfield Grant, and the only thing left was to wait on Gov. Mike DeWine’s go-ahead. He said the two cleanup projects, the former East Monroe Mill and Rocky Fork Truck Stop, were fully approved and the contracts were sent out to the land bank before Christmas.
Mackenzie Edison, the land bank coordinator, said she already finished work on those contracts and sent them back for approval.
Following that, Wagner said Tetra Tech is already working on the bid process for the two projects. He said that it “usually” takes about a month, with there being a 10-day notification period to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permits and aspects like that. He said he expected to start in February or March to see bids, meaning the land bank would be “well ahead” of the June 30 deadline.
Wagner also said there has been talk about how projects like the Rocky Fork Truck Stop could potentially get extensions for additional cleanup for groundwater, but he said that would be something the land bank and Wagner would learn more about over the coming months.
Regarding the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant, Edison said the land bank now has 13 of the 18 houses demolished, with two of the properties completely finished. She said the other 11 are demolished but the properties still need to have their straw put down.
Also, Edison opened bids for the demolition of a S.R. 73 barn that has been previously discussed at other land bank meetings. the bids were as follows: Fillmore Construction for $148,750, CMJ Contractors for $142,000 and Evans Landscaping for $60,000.
Edison said the bid from Evans Landscaping being so much lower concerns her because she worried if they knew that asbestos was a part of the bid. However, Terry Britton, a member of the land bank board, said he knew Evans Landscaping had previously dealt with this kind of project and suggested Edison check with them to make sure they knew about what was going on with the project. Edison said she knows that the asbestos was in the bid packet, but also said she would clarify with Evans Landscaping just in case.
The land bank board moved to accept the Evans Landscaping bid for the S.R. 73 barn for $60,000 following a check with them regarding the asbestos removal.
Also, Wagner said there’s been some discussion about there possibly being another round of the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant. He said the thought at the moment is that there might be a return of the two programs in 2024 with the full $500 million.
Wagner said that would mean $350 million for the Brownfield Grant and another $150 million for Building Demolition and Site Revitalization. He said the land bank lobbyists and others are already “jockeying” for that to happen because of the demand.
In other land bank news, concerning matters discussed at last month’s meeting about Greenfield and the Elliott Hotel, Todd Book, the land bank’s legal representative, said that during the process with the hotel, there was a lot of transition going on with the land bank at the time.
“There was some, obviously, miscommunications and misunderstandings amongst everybody and I know at NASA they say, ‘Don’t talk about trying to find blame. Work the problem.’ So, by working the problem in this situation, we do have a hotel that needs to be torn down, that’s an eyesore and it’s a safety issue and that’s what land banks are for,” Book said. “It’s to be part of that discussion and be helpful in that regard. When it comes to where we are in things, I’ve been in contact with Greenfield’s legal counsel to discuss options. I fully expect that they will have a proposal next meeting for us and how we should help them move forward. We can decide at that point what we want to do.”
Book also said that Wagner pointed out that there were some cost-sharing aspects to the project that would have been involved if it was bid because it would have put the land bank over the grant program’s limit. He said there would have been some money paid by the village of Greenfield for the teardown of the hotel if it had gone forward.
Book said that he is currently working to find a workable resolution for both parties and that there should be a recommendation from him by January’s meeting.
Edison also gave updates on specific properties the land bank has been working on.
For 6638 Wizard of Oz Way in Hillsboro, Edison said the property finally showed up on Zillow last Tuesday, but it still doesn’t have an interested buyer. Britton suggested that the land bank might want to adjust the price to try and bring more interest. The land bank board moved to lower the price of the property from $10,800 to $7,000. Jeff Duncan, another member of the land bank board, said the land bank would try that for a while and if nothing happens, they might contact some realtors to see if they could help.
Regarding 12218 New Lexington Ave. in Highland, Edison said the land bank closed with the buyer last week, where the buyer “completely” cleaned the property. She said it sold for $11,600.
Concerning 6774 Heather Moor Trail in the Rocky Fork Lake area, she said she’s been in contact with the prosecutor’s office which said they finished the tax foreclosure for the property. Edison said they only need to finish the closing steps, and once those are done they will everything over to the land bank to record the deed. Edison also said they planned to start on 6747 Heather Moor Trail, too.
Pertaining to 453 E. Main St. in Hillsboro, Edison said it is in the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant and will be demolished. She said the property owner wants to donate it to the land bank but that there’s a small lien on it of $277.53 and the owner is having trouble paying it off. She said that the lien is what’s stopping the property from being donated. The land bank moved to allow Edison to go through the title search and also look further into getting the property into the land bank’s hands.
Edison also said that December’s meeting would be Duncan’s last. Duncan said he didn’t know how the Highland County Board of Commissioners would resolve that. Britton said the board of commissioners would have its organizational meeting sometime the first week of January where they decide who would take all the different required positions.
“I feel like we’re finally getting some traction here and things are moving, so, appreciate all your good work Mackenzie and I think the way, we’re off to a good start, I think that’ll continue, the way it looks,” Duncan said. “We’ve got good legal representation. We’ve got a lot people helping, so appreciate all the work everybody’s done on this and looking forward to ‘23.”
Edison announced that she was chosen to be on the Ohio Land Bank Association Board. She said they meet once a month virtually as well as once a year in person. She said the Ohio Land Bank Association Board suggested she be on the committee for the Ohio Land Bank Conference for the 2023 version because it is in Dayton.
Edison also said that she updated the land bank’s website. She said the domain name for the site expires in May and needs to be renewed.
The next meeting of the land bank is scheduled to be on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at 9 a.m.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.