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COUNTY NEWS: Land Bank helping revitalize Wayne County

Photo by Dan Starcher | Wayne County government

With a crumbling foundation and having been listed for sale with no suitable offers, the Orrville Historical Building was recently demolished with help from the Wayne County Land Reutilization Corporation and the State of Ohio’s one-time Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program grant.

In only its fourth year in operation, the Wayne County Land Reutilization Corporation (WCLRC), also known as a Land Bank, has helped revitalize areas where unwanted, foreclosed, or dilapidated buildings once stood, according to a Wayne County government news release.

There are many reasons a parcel of land becomes abandoned, and the primary goal of the WCLRC is to get the distressed property back on the tax rolls.

Abandoned properties bring the land value down in a neighborhood — a detriment to property owners that may be looking to sell.

“Foreclosed homes and unwanted property can wreak havoc on a neighborhood,” Wayne County Commissioner and WCLRC President Sue Smail said. “We want to get ahead of this issue and ensure that property values in Wayne County continue to stay strong.”

A recent delinquency report search on the Wayne County Auditor’s website returned more than 1,000 parcels whose owners owed back tax payments that range from a few pennies to thousands of dollars.

When a tax bill becomes too high for the landowner to pay, a foreclosure process starts with the case being sent to the county prosecutor’s office. If not resolved, the property could end up on the Sheriff’s auction block. The starting bid at the Sheriff’s auction is the amount of the taxes owed. Many times this is more than the property is valued at, so there is very little interest.

This is where a local land bank can help.

“We can step in and let the prosecutor’s office know that the land bank would like to take possession of the parcel and start the revitalization process,” Smail said. “We are being proactive. We do not want an entire neighborhood to get to the point where homes are stripped of their value because of the neglect of others. We are very fortunate to have the land bank to use as a safety net.”

Once the parcel is cleared of its back taxes and renovated, it is ready to hit the market. Bidders must submit their plans and a timeline for the intended use of the property. Typically, bidding for renovated property starts at the auditor’s valuation.

However, foreclosure isn’t the only way a piece of land can be obtained by the land bank.

“There are instances where someone inherits a property, and they may not be in a position to maintain the parcel,” Smail said. “They may live out of state, or they may not be able to afford it. In those cases, they can donate the unwanted parcel to the WCLRC.”

Anyone, including village and township officials, that has concerns about abandoned property in Wayne County or that would like to donate land should contact the WCLRC at 330-287-5400 or visit

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