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Sandusky land bank program razing blight

Jason Singer • Dec 30, 2010 at 8:07 AM

Many of the parcels are tiny.

One's just a five-foot sliver of a triangle.

The others aren't much more than a few hundred square feet.

But these properties -- foreclosed upon because of delinquent taxes -- represent an effort by city officials to improve the city's neighborhoods.

In total, the city approved 11 parcels this week -- including the ones mentioned above -- to possibly add to its Land Reutilization Program, better known as the city's "land bank."

"It's a way for us to produce tax-delinquent parcels into something that makes money for us," city planner Carrie Handy said earlier this year.

The city began the land bank in 2007, as a way to battle blighted neighborhoods in the city.

The city has more than 200 vacant houses within its limits, as well as about 90 tax-delinquent properties with liens on them, Handy said.

The city has targeted about 60 homes for its land-bank program, but has only acquired 14, said Amanda Meyers, a paralegal for the city.

Although the city targets dozens of houses, it only acquires them if the city has a specific purpose lined up, Meyers said.

Sometimes, like with 2123 to 2125 E. Forest Drive, acquired earlier this year, the city will sell the lots to Habitat for Humanity.

The city sold those parcels for about $5,500, Meyers said.

In the case of the tiny parcels approved Monday night, the city hopes to give them to adjoining property owners.

That way, residents will have room to add a driveway or increase the size of their yards.

As of now, the city has to spend money cutting the grass at the properties three or four times per year, Meyers said.

That can cost the city as much as $750 per year, Handy said.

Although the city has to forgive delinquent taxes to acquire the properties, Meyers said it pays off in the end.

"If we can get these back on the tax rolls, they will more than pay for themselves," Meyers said.

The city has also demolished dozens of homes this year, mostly using Neighborhood Stabilization Funds.

In specific areas, like on Hancock Street and in the southern portion of the city, the city hopes to demolish older, dilipidated homes and allow Habitat for Humanity to update the housing stock.

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