Village discusses land bank

Published 10:31 am Friday, February 17, 2017

As many as 20 buildings could be demolished

CHESAPEAKE — The village of Chesapeake continued to tackle the issue of abandoned and dilapidated properties at an extended meeting of council on Thursday night.

The meeting kicked off with a presentation from Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham, who was invited by Mayor Tommy Templeton to address the meeting.

Burcham serves as chairman of the Lawrence County Land Bank, to which the mayor and council have turned for help in cleaning up the village.

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“We’re trying to get together so he can fill us in on what’s been going on with the land bank and tell us what we need to do,” Templeton said.

Burcham said that the land bank, as part of its countywide efforts, has targeted about 20 properties in Chesapeake to knock down using grant money received from the state and federal governments.

He said the bank is targeting abandoned properties that are at least one year delinquent on taxes, which have been published and that the mission is to transform what he called “zombie houses” into productive properties.

“Ownership of the properties are transferred to the land bank,” Burcham said. “At that point, we knock them down, bring them up to construction grade, and put a ‘for sale’ sign on them.”

Burcham said the land bank is focusing heavily on the Rockwood Avenue area, the site of many properties he deemed “eyesores.”

“We want to put something in there that the community can be proud of,” he said, noting that in addition to excavation jobs, once a property is cleaned up, it can benefit the area by leading to employment of builders, plumbers, electricians and other labor.

He said some properties on Rockwood, due to issues with hill slippage, may not be deemed suitable for new construction and could be transferred back to the village.

Greenery grants are available, Burcham said, and the properties could also be used for bike paths, parking lots, dog parks or could “go back to nature.”

Burcham said “not a single taxpayer dollar” is being spent on the land bank, which is funded by the tax lien program. He said funds from the sale of the properties would go to the land bank, allowing it to expand its efforts to go after more properties.

“We want to be the biggest realtor in Lawrence County,” he said of the sales, but added that the mission is not “to deprive anyone of their property.”

“But we also want people to be good citizens,” he said, stressing that only abandoned and tax delinquent properties would be targeted.

Burcham asked the mayor and council for their input as to which properties to go after, and provided them with forms to submit.

He said that if its known that any of the properties on the list were sites of drug or illicit activity, to inform him of the problem.

“I’m going to put that at the top of my list,” he said. “I don’t want a drug house in my neighborhood, and I don’t want a drug house in your neighborhood.”

In addition to delinquent properties, Burcham said two properties on Rockwood Avenue have been donated to the land bank, which he says is good for a tax write-off for the previous owners.

Templeton asked Burcham to focus on the “Curry property” on Rockwood Avenue, which he said is close to falling into the road.

“I would guess that is the most dangerous,” he said.

Burcham stated the site was on his list of properties to be knocked down.

Templeton asked Burcham to speculate on when the first properties would be torn down, to which Burcham said he estimated sometime in June.

He said he expects 15-20 properties to be knocked down by the end of the year, which drew applause from those in attendance.

“If we reached even half of that, it would be a blessing,” Templeton said.

In other business, the council:

• Discussed the possibility of adopting property maintenance ordinances used by another village, provided by interim police chief Randy Lewis. Templeton said that the ordinances would “require civil proceedings” and that he would meet with village solicitor Casey Baker in the next week to discuss options

• Discussed the need for an ordinance dealing with false alarm calls to police, which Templeton said is due to a malfunctioning alarm at a business repeatedly calling police.

• Discussed avenues of generating revenue, such as a business tax or sales tax. No action was taken and Templeton said he would look into options.

• Voted 5-0 to spend $1,200 on traffic lights.

• Discussed bids for repairing the roof at the fire station. No action was taken.

• Voted 5-0 to reimburse Lewis for $3,937 in expenses in purchasing radar and other equipment for the police department.