ELYRIA — The Lorain County commissioners approved forming a land bank in the county, with more than half the funding coming from money that now goes to school districts.
The land bank will be paid from a portion of fees collected from penalties paid on delinquent property taxes, now sent to schools districts and municipalities. Commissioners estimated about a $600,000 budget average through 10 years, but after the meeting, Commissioner Tom Williams said next year’s budget could reach about $770,000, with $439,000 in funds that would normally go to schools.
Debate also heated up concerning which elected officials could and would be included as members of the land bank board. Williams wanted a seven-person board to include a representative from the real estate industry; commissioners Lori Kokoski and Ted Kalo wanted to begin with approving a five-person board with the option of amending that as necessary.
The land bank would purchase or take ownership of dilapidated property that can be transferred, held, managed and leased. The land bank would also issue bonds, apply for grants, make loans and borrow money. Its purpose is to eventually bring vacant, tax foreclosed and under utilized property to productive use. Kokoski pointed out she has a real estate background, to show Williams a five-person board was adequate, but Williams said Kokoski has been out of the business for a while and “a lot of things have changed in real estate.”
She said she technically has never left the business.
“If you’re going to say I don’t have enough real estate experience, I’m going to say it’s Ted and I on the board,” Kokoski said. Per Ohio law, only two of the three commissioners are required to be on a land bank board.
“So, do what you say, or I’m (out)?” Williams said.
Kokoski later said she didn’t mean to suggest Williams had to do what she wanted or else. She was just trying to offer a solution to Williams’ desire to add Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda, a real estate official and president of the townships to the board. If her real estate background suffices, then both Brinda and the townships president can join at some point, she said.
The commissioners authorized the county treasurer to file articles of incorporation with the state to get the land bank operating, which needs to be completed before any more action can take place.
Members of board for the land bank will be the three commissioners, Lorain County Treasurer Dan Talarek and Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer as members. The board is required to have five, seven or nine members.
“I think it’s a move we need to make,” Kalo said. “(To get) a healthier Lorain County.”
Williams voted no on approving the board and going forward with the land bank due to his earlier concerns about the board members and money taken from the school districts without the districts’ support.