By LYDIA BAULER
FOR THE COURIER
FOSTORIA — The Seneca County Land Bank was the hot topic at Fostoria City Council’s Tuesday meeting.
Seneca County founded the land bank in 2015 as a tool to return blighted properties to productive use, increase property values and transform neighborhoods throughout the county.
“It allows communities to get hold of properties that are not being taken care of and have been forfeited by their taxes not being paid,” said Mayor Eric Keckler, who is on the land bank board. “Many of them are dilapidated beyond the point of repair.”
The land bank has demolished eight blighted homes so far, according to Keckler, and there are plans to raze about 36 additional properties. Grants are available to pay for demolition.
For homes that are still inhabitable, buyers interested in living there are able to approach the land bank.
“If we have a house that does not need to be demolished, organizations like Habitat for Humanity and people who want to buy a home to live in can also contact the land bank to buy land bank houses,” Keckler said.
The land bank board sets rules that require a buyer to live there for a certain period of time before selling it again. This means they cannot be made into rental properties or change hands quickly.
That particular rule was a point of frustration for a citizen, Bill Sayre, 301 S. Main St., who hoped to buy a property and flip it.
“I don’t understand how an empty lot is going to be more of a source of tax revenue for the community than a house, even if it is a rental, that’s bringing in revenue,” Sayre said.
“I was starting the purchase process and talked to the former owner when it was seized,” he said. “I planned on fixing it up and flipping it. It would have been an improved house in the community that was paying taxes.”
Sayre said he hates seeing empty lots in Fostoria when the homes slated to be demolished might possibly be fixed up.
“I hate to see empty lots in Fostoria,” he said. “I think it’s incredibly illogical economically when they can be fixed.”
Neighbors of homes on the land bank’s tear-down list will have an opportunity to apply to buy the properties once they’re demolished.