Land banks want state funds to raze commercial, industrial properties

By Mark Ferenchik - The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS — City and county land banks across the state are pushing Ohio legislators to approve $50 million to demolish empty commercial and industrial sites that officials say hinder redevelopment efforts, along with vacant homes.

The supply of money that land banks have been using for demolition is drying up and another infusion is needed, said James Rokakis, vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in suburban Cleveland and a land bank advocate.

“The one problem is that we have been unable to attack the commercial and industrial (properties),” Rokakis said. “All this stuff is an in-your-face reminder of what Ohio used to be, and it holds us back.”

State Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, introduced a bill Thursday that creates a Land Reutilization Demolition Program. According to the bill, no land bank can be awarded more than 20 percent of the money.

The Ohio County Land Bank Network is trying to line up support in the Senate as well, Rokakis said.

“We’ve got to get the momentum going,” he said.

Advocates were trying to get the $50 million request put into the state budget. But the Ohio House forwarded the two-year, $68.9 billion operating budget on May 9 without including the land bank provision.

By Mark Ferenchik

The Columbus Dispatch

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