Much more than just “drug houses”; State grants to fund commercial building demolition would propel county land banks as key drivers of Ohio’s economic development

May 11, 2021 | News, Newsletter

Jeffry D. Harris
Bricker & Eckler LLP  

 

In late April 2021, a legislative committee in the Ohio House held its second hearing to consider creating a $100 million grant program, exclusively for county land banks, to fund commercial building demolition. Ohio’s land bank statutes are recognized as a national model, uniquely providing an opt-in for county commissioners to direct tax collections to fund their county land banks’ activities. That revenue model, coupled with allocations from the state’s Hardest Hit Fund (specifically, the sun-setting Neighborhood Initiative Program), allowed land banks to grow in number during the past decade and thrive in addressing so-called nonproductive land in their communities.

But federal and state funding partners to date have been laser-focused on acquiring and demolishing vacant and abandoned residential properties. What to do with the proverbial long-abandoned former factory on the [north, south, east, west] side of town, respectively, rotting away in virtually every Ohio community? County land banks have been at a loss as to what funding sources they could access to acquire and remediate nonproductive commercial properties. Simply put, properly funding commercial building acquisition and demolition has been the purple unicorn eluding Ohio’s land banking thought leaders.

Enter House Bill (HB) 155, introduced in February by two Cleveland-area state legislators. This legislation seeks to create a new General Revenue Fund-sourced initiative at the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA): the Land Reutilization Nuisance Abatement Program, with $50 million appropriated for each of State Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023. Written into Ohio’s community improvement corporation (CIC) laws – county land banks technically operate as CICs in Ohio – the program would provide grants to fund “the abatement of nuisance structures on blighted parcels,” with land banks to locally match, dollar-for-dollar, any awarded ODSA funds.

A key feature of HB 155 is in its reference to general provisions of Ohio law. Namely, “blighted parcel” is defined according to dilapidated and unsafe conditions, irrespective whether the property is used for residential or commercial purposes (see Ohio Revised Code Section 1.08(B)).

The House Committee’s reception to HB 155 in late April was notable for its active dialogue among members of both parties as to how county land banks advance development in their communities. If enacted, HB 155 would be the very sharp and long sought-after arrow in the quiver of those communities in Ohio with an active county land bank to actively address shuttered and forlorn factories and commercial complexes.

The Public Finance team of attorneys at Bricker & Eckler LLP is available to help county land bank officials track and understand this proposed funding opportunity.  We welcome local elected and county land bank officials to reach out to obtain more information.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship.

City of Tiffin launches second Dream Big Tiffin process on Sept. 3

TIFFIN, OHIO – On behalf of the City of Tiffin, the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership is announcing the start of the 2021 Dream Big Tiffin cycle. Citizens and organizations can submit ideas and full project proposals for community development projects online at www.dreambigtiffin.com starting on Friday, Sept. 3, through Friday, Oct. 15, 2021.

read more

Lobbyist Impact State of Ohio Capital Budget Community Project Success

A lot like the state operating budget, the capital budget is passed every 2 years, in the second year of the General Assembly. The capital budget is legislation where the State of Ohio appropriates resources to state owned infrastructure as well as other government purpose projects called community projects. Community projects make up only a small amount of the on-average $2 billion capital budget, but these appropriations generate the biggest focus from the legislature.

read more