Highland County Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin and commissioner Terry Britton will serve on the five-member operating board for the newly formed Highland County land bank.
Wilkin appointed himself and Britton Wednesday to the land bank’s board, which Wilkin said by law must include two county commissioners or commissioners’ appointees, the county treasurer or appointee, a representative of the largest municipality in the county and a representative of the largest unincorporated area in the county.
Wilkin and Britton will serve on the board alongside the City of Hillsboro’s appointee, Charlie Guarino, Paint Township appointee Randy Mustard and Catherine Allen, who was appointed by Highland County Treasurer Vickie Warnock.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, the commissioners approved the formation of the land bank in October of last year.
The project is funded by seed money from an $800,000 grant awarded to the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Planning Process (RFL-ASAP), a targeted crime-fighting and economic development program to improve quality of life in the lake area.
According to the County Commissioners Association of Ohio’s handbook, county land banks have very broad powers and can perform a number of functions, mainly acting as a facilitator for the return of blighted, abandoned and tax-foreclosed property to productive, tax-paying economic uses.
LuAnn Winkle, director of the Turning Point Applied Learning Center and site coordinator for the Rocky Fork project, recently told The Times-Gazette she sees the Highland County land bank as a main component necessary to acquiring and cleaning up areas of the lake that have fallen into blight or resulted in unattractive detriments to economic growth at Rocky Fork.
Where they have been utilized already, land banks have helped local economies. For example, in Lucas County, which incorporated its land bank in 2010, the land bank took over an abandoned strip mall and turned it into a repurposed office and retail center. It also obtained through foreclosure, donation and negotiation several rundown properties in upper Toledo which resulted in the creation of the Uptown Green, a plaza, garden and small concert venue.
The Lucas County land bank has partnered with local hospitals, schools and other entities for many more community improvement projects.
According to a land bank guidance document produced by Lucas County, land banks “tackle the challenges of vacant and abandoned properties with new tools, create a dedicated funding stream, streamline the county tax foreclosure processes, build and grow community partnerships (and) take advantage of available federal, state and private funding sources.”
A land bank operates by “facilitating the reutilization of vacant, abandoned, and tax‐foreclosed real property, efficiently holding such property pending reutilization; assisting entities to assemble and clear the title of such property in a coordinated manner, and promoting economic and housing development.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.