FILE - Ohio State Capitol

An Ohio state flag flies in front of the Ohio Statehouse in ColumbusOhio.

Lawmakers are looking to allocate $50 million over the next two years to fund the demolition of structures on a blighted property.

The House Economic and Workforce Development Committee voted 13-1 in favor of House Bill 252 that would create the Land Reutilization Demolition Program. Under the program, the Development Services Agency (DSA) would award grants to county land banks – formally called “county land reutilization corporations” – to demolish structures on blighted parcels.

The state considers property blighted if it poses a threat to public health or safety or is designated as unfit for human habitation. It would also apply to sites that adversely affect surrounding property values, limit land use in the area or owe taxes totaling more than the property is worth.

“Counties across the State of Ohio have experience with blighted properties,” George Kral, chief of police for the Toledo Police Department and a vice president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, said in written testimony to the House Economic and Workforce Development Committee. “This is not unique to any one type of community as blighted parcels and structures exist in urban and rural communities of all sizes.

“These properties make it difficult for surrounding neighborhoods to experience growth, while posing a safety threat to residents that live in the vicinity,” Kral added. “In addition, blighted commercial properties are difficult to police because they serve as havens for crime.”

As of March, 55 of Ohio’s 88 counties have land banks, according to a review from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. Under the proposal, any county land bank that receives a grant from this program must commit an amount that is equal or greater to the amount received, state Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, said in his written sponsor testimony.

“The impact of these properties on the surrounding neighborhoods is unquestionably negative,” Greenspan said. “Not only do these vacant and abandoned properties reduce property values, they make neighborhoods less safe. They are a nightmare for the cities and the towns and the villages that have to police them and keep the building secure.”

In written testimony, Jason Warner, manager of government affairs for the Greater Ohio Policy Center, noted many efforts thus far have focused on residential properties because of program restrictions and the funding available for projects.

“As a result, hundreds of abandoned commercial and industrial sites remain decaying across the state,” Warner said.

“House Bill 252 represents an important tool to help rural, suburban and urban communities begin to address blight, which remains far too common a sight across Ohio,” Warner added. “...Many of these former industrial and commercial sites House Bill 252 would target are brownfields, meaning they are unusable in their current condition due to environmental contamination.”

The House Finance Committee will consider the bill next.

The Center Square Contributor