Grant programs hope to be renewed


The Brownfield Remediation Project and the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant Program are reportedly in the works to be renewed following their passage in the Ohio House, Highland County Land Reutilization Corporation (land bank) Coordinator Mackenzie Edison said Wednesday.

Edison also said at the land bank’s monthly meeting that the two were both put into the state’s budget.

Todd Book, the land bank’s legal counsel, said that $350 million was put into the budget for the next round of the Brownfield Remediation Project and $150 million for the next round of the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant Program.

Book said he would “assume” that the two would be similar to the last round with its parameters, but that there “maybe” could be some tweaks based on what was learned.

He suggested that the land bank try and be the “tip of the spear” for the operation of the next cycle. He also said that the land bank should try to schedule countywide meetings to talk through that process as the state budget gets finalized.

“Well, we gotta commend the governor for doing this because, you know, that worked out pretty well, I think, this last grant,” Britton said. “So, he’s committed to help clean Ohio up.”

Edison said she was already in the process, following the House approval, of gathering properties for the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant Program.

Edison said all of the properties for the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant Program have been cleaned up, and that she received the invoices from the contractors. She said she sent in the quarter one report and planned to send in the final report next week.

For the Brownfield Remediation Grant, Edison said the initial phase has been completed at Rocky Fork Truck Stop. However, she also said it isn’t completely done because the subcontractors needed to submit their invoices, but it is physically finished. Terry Britton, a member of the land bank, said the county also planned to run sewer lines through that property.

Edison said that the East Monroe Mill demolition was planned to start Monday, also saying the county was waiting on the subcontractors to do a few things.

In other news, Edison said the land appraised value on the Highland County Auditor’s website wasn’t accurately reflecting the real value for some of the properties with demolitions. She said that her understanding of the process was that the prices wouldn’t be changed to reflect the changes until next year.

She said this was a “concern” because some properties that had demolitions were still valued at at least $24,000, and there has been interested parties in some properties that had to back off because of the price.

Britton said the land bank’s policy is to go by the auditor’s website, but he also suggested making a kind of amendment to that policy to adjust the properties to where they should be. Book said that he could come up with an amendment for that.

He also said that because the land bank is now in a “better position,” and because it was doing activities in different avenues, he was wondering what areas the board wanted it to move forward with next. He talked about maybe getting into the rehab operation, but said that was a suggestion.

Steve Creed, the housing director for the Fayette County Community Action Organization and administrator for the Fayette County Land Bank, was also in attendance to talk about possibly bringing the Self-Help Housing program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to Highland County.

Creed said the program can work with low-income people, 80 percent of the immediate income or less of the area, to get them a mortgage to the USDA Rural Development, with them also building their own home. He said the “only” money from the client’s pocket was the $25 application fee to the USDA for the mortgage, and then when they’re eligible, they would need to pay for the first year’s homeowner’s insurance in advance.

He said the program builds in a minimum group of four people, but sometimes it goes up to six to eight, with them sharing the labor. He also said they needed to put about 65 percent of the labor into the house. However, he said they do sell out the trades for the plumbing, electrical and heating and cooling.

Creed said the credit score requirement for this is a “little lower” than a bank, with it being 640 or better. He said applicants couldn’t have a bankruptcy or something like that, and must have the income and ability to repay.

Edison also gave updates for multiple properties:

* The owner of 9955 U.S. Route 62 in Leesburg/Samantha wanted to donate the property, with Book planning to do a title search.

* 229 E. South St. and 453 E. Main St., both in Hillsboro, had their prices lowered to $12,000.

* The neighbor next to a property on S.R. 134 in Buford was interested in it and possibly wanted to turn it into a parking lot. However, Edison said the interested party “obviously” didn’t want it with the liens on it at the moment.

* 137 Lafayette St. in Greenfield was looked into being donated, but the person that wanted to do so wasn’t financially able to get it through probate. With these probate issues, Book said the land bank is looking into possible solutions, such as possibly getting the probate work done and delaying being paid until the property sells. However, he also said not everybody is willing to do that.

* 6855 Dutch St. in Greenfield was also looking at being donated but was also having the financial probate troubles, with a neighbor also interested in purchasing it.

* Habitat for Humanity reached out to the land bank about a property it could have to build a house, with them being interested in Mowrystown. Edison said a property at 79 W. Main St. was on the land bank’s radar. She said she contacted the children of the deceased owner there but hasn’t heard back.

* A neighbor at 2919 Harriett Road was interested in it and would clean it up.

* 6747 Heather Moor Trail in Hillsboro and the Enchanted Hills Community Association were still pending foreclosure.

Edison also said she wouldn’t be in her office pretty much “at all” next week due to the Ohio Land Bank Association (OLBA) Conference in Dayton. She said on Monday and Tuesday she would be helping to prepare for it, with Wednesday through Friday being the actual conference. However, she said she would be available electronically.

The next meeting of the land bank is scheduled to be on Thursday, May 18 at 9 a.m.

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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