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Clermont County's brand new land bank awarded $500k to demolish vacant buildings

Clermont county building slated for demolition
Clermont County Land Reutilization Corporation
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A building in Clermont County slated for demolition.

A new Land Bank in Clermont County will facilitate the demolition of about 30 vacant buildings over the next year. The organization was just formed this summer and already has a $500,000 state grant.

State lawmakers gave counties the option to form a land bank over a decade ago. Community Development Administrator Desmond Maaytah, CEO of Clermont County’s land bank, says they were in the minority of counties without one yet.

“A lot of folks, when they hear 'land bank' and it's associated with government, they kind of have this connotation that it's another overreach of government to go and take properties,” he said. “And so I think there's been a little bit of education that had to happen with the communities.”

(Editor’s note: WVXU’s Becca Costello spoke with Maaytah about the land bank; you can listen to the full conversation above by clicking the purple play button)

Maaytah says the land bank will take it slow as they get started. The first round of demolition includes mostly single-family homes and a few warehouse and commercial buildings.

“It's just a variety of properties that we've had sitting across the county that our local jurisdictions haven't had the funds to adequately address,” Maaytah said.

Some of the communities included are Batavia, Williamsburg, and New Richmond, and Franklin, Miami, and Monroe Townships.

Maaytah says around 150 properties were identified for potential demolition, but the grant can’t pay for all of them. Future projects could include taking on abandoned gas stations, or building parks or affordable housing.

“Our land bank is not going to go after properties where there's a homeowner or a business owner that may just be behind on their taxes," Maaytah says. "We're really going to concentrate on those vacant and abandoned properties where nobody's really around anymore to take care of them.”

The land bank (officially called Clermont County Land Reutilization Corporation) is a nonprofit operated through the county’s Department of Community and Economic Development. The board includes: County Treasurer Jeannie Zurmehly (chair), Commissioner David Painter (vice chair), Commissioner Bonnie Batchler, Jeff Baumgarth (representing townships) and Michael Doss (representing municipalities).

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.