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County could reduce dilapidated properties

Staff writer

Dilapidated properties in the county could be rehabilitated or demolished if county commissioners move forward with a proposal to develop a land bank.

At a work session Monday, commissioners and county counsel Brad Jantz Monday went over what would be needed to form a land bank and the benefits it would bring.

Jantz, who proposed land bank regulations and an ordinance to create one, told commissioners how land banks work.

If the county accepts property, all property taxes owed go away.

“That’s what we have to offer,” he said.

The land bank then can sell the property or tell interested people it will give it to them.

Getting the property at no cost “gives them a leg up” on rehabilitating it, Jantz said.

“If we give it to someone, generally I’ll do a quitclaim deed, because we don’t want to do a general deed,” he said.

If a property is included in a tax sale, the county can bid on it to prevent “bottom feeders” from buying it for $50 and selling it six months later for $500, Jantz said.

But a land bank doesn’t have to wait for a sheriff’s sale to buy property. If they are aware of property in bad condition, they could approach owners to let them know the land bank exists.

Jantz said the county would not want properties with violations of health and environment regulations or toxic waste contamination.

“You don’t have to accept property people offer you,” he said.

The county also is not compelled to accept any offer to purchase or obtain property in the land bank.

Land banks have their own checking accounts, but profits go into the general fund, he said.

“If it’s set up properly, it becomes self-sustaining,” he said.

Before developing a land bank, commissioners would have to decide on a board of trustees, then have Jantz draw up legal paperwork.

Bylaws are set at the first meeting.

Other necessary details include making arrangements for mowing. Mowing costs are charged to the land bank.

Land bank meetings are subject to open meetings and open records laws, Jantz said.

The city of Marion established a land bank in October 2017. Ten properties have gone into the land bank, and eight of them have been sold and returned to the tax rolls.

Hillsboro’s land bank, established one year ago, contains 63 properties, most of which are vacant lots.

None of the Hillsboro properties has been sold, but property was given to the county for a new emergency medical services building.

Tabor College is using the city’s land-banked old post office, and a lease to purchase it is being developed.

EMS and Tabor are not tax-paying entities.

“We have also sold a small portion of the old post office lot to Vyve for a telecommunications node,” city administrator Matt Stiles said.

Last modified Aug. 19, 2021

 

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