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Community News

Demolition grants helping communities

1/2/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Shown above, a demolition crew from Butcher & Son completes work on an abandoned home at 977 Abington Road, as neighbors gather to watch the activity, shown below top right. They applauded as the crew knocked down the last wall.
A posted sign announces the intent of Springfield Township officials to have a home at 977 Abington Road razed June 3, 2013. It was the first home demolished in the township using funds from the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program.
Photos: Lew Stamp
Properties earmarked for demolition in New Franklin last year as part of the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program included these homes on Grove Road (shown above), Hampsher Road (shown below) and Nimsila Road (shown at bottom).
Photos courtesy of the city of New Franklin
SOUTHERN SUMMIT COUNTY — Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program funds have removed vacant, abandoned and blighted homes and made neighborhoods safer, according to Holly Miller, senior administrator in Summit County’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

Miller said the state grant program was established through a settlement from a suit against banks that used practices that spurred on the foreclosure crisis. Ohio received $95 million, and $3.7 million of this was allocated to Summit County. Of that amount, $500,000 was available outright, and the rest required a match from local communities participating in the program.

Communities had the option to lien back their local match portion of the demolition costs to the homeowner, and they had to use their matching funds first before accessing county grant money, Miller added.

The process to demolish a home through the grant program involved administrative work on the part of the participating communities. After identifying homes to be included under the grant program, the actual demolition process included completing asbestos abatement, clearing the home of all items inside, filling the basement in once the home was demolished, capping the well and crushing the septic tank.

Demolition of substandard homes were easier to accomplish if owners agreed to the process, according to participating community officials.

Miller said all demolitions using Moving Ohio Forward grant funds had to be complete by Dec. 31, with paperwork due by Jan. 31, 2014.

In the South Side News Leader coverage area, Springfield led the effort to clean up vacant and blighted homes. According to Miller, the township got $381,037, with $100,000 provided through the local funds match.

Zoning and Planning Administrator Patricia Ryan said the township had participated in a similar grant program in 2007 that took down “a large number of structures” so officials were interested once again in taking part. She said 44 properties were taken down by the end of the year.

“I think the current grant has helped immensely by eliminating structurally deficient, blighted and/or vacant residences from neighborhoods, and in the long run [this] will improve the values of the remaining properties,” she said. “All in all, the reactions of the neighbors [have] been extremely positive. Many neighbors came out to watch the demolitions, and in a few instances, cheered. The property owners who signed waivers were thankful that they did not have to pay the full cost of the demolition, which in some instances had kept them from taking the structures down earlier. Many were relieved and thrilled that they now had a clear lot to rebuild or sell.”

Ryan said there are a lot more homes that should be torn down, and added township officials are committed to making such improvements. She said the township has routinely allocated some money for nuisance abatement demolitions every year.

In Lakemore, the village received a grant amount of about $147,201, with no local match, according to Miller.

Lakemore Fiscal Officer Tracy Fast said 13 homes were taken down by Dec. 31.

“There were a few more homes we are looking at, and we are working with the property owners on this,” she said.

According to Miller, Coventry received a grant of about $97,519, which includes a $15,000 match of local funds. That amount reflects an increase from the original amount, according to Zoning Inspector George Beckham.

Beckham said the funds were used to take down 15 homes by the end of the year, with six of those located in the Cottage Grove and Killian roads area.

“This program has had a big impact here,” he said. “We have homes that have been vacant for five years, and that has had a negative impact on neighborhoods through the devaluation of property and an increase in crime.

“We have at least another 10 we could do, and we are waiting to see if the program comes back,” he added.

The city of Green was awarded $82,843, including $15,000 in matching local funds, according to Miller.

Zoning Superintendent Barbara Holdren said the city demolished eight homes by Dec. 31.

“Green just isn’t dealing with the blight that other communities have,” she said. “But we are putting the funds to good use to help residents and the community. Each property we have dealt with will become more viable and useful.”

New Franklin was allotted about $37,730, with $7,500 of local funds matched.

According to Zoning and Grants Coordinator Mark Kochheiser, four houses under the Moving Ohio Forward program were demolished.

“No bank would sign a waiver to have a house demolished because of the equity value in the house,” he said. “Thus, an initial listing of 20 houses was reduced to four.”

New Franklin Law Director Tom Musarra told city officials recently he is looking into creating legislation that would require banks that own vacant homes to register them with the city and post a bond for their maintenance.

Some communities could see some extra funds coming their way to pay for demolitions, according to county officials.

Miller added that unspent funds from the program were to be re-allocated to communities that demolished homes by Dec. 31 using their own funds.

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