The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, May. 28, 2020

Project brings new life to blighted areas

VW independent/submitted information

After listening to feedback from local communities, the Van Wert County Board of Commissioners this year created a program to demolish and clear away abandoned or “nuisance” structures.

Van Wert city leaders were the first to employ the “Phoenix Initiative” to raze a property that had been abandoned and forfeited to the county. Last week, a house at 525 N. Chestnut St. was demolished, and the rubbish, garbage and debris were hauled away, leaving a cleared lot that is now on the market.

This derelict house at 525 N. Chestnut St. has since been demolished, leaving a empty lot that can now be sold to someone wanting to build a new house or a neighbor who wants more space next to their residence. (photo submitted)
This derelict house at 525 N. Chestnut St. has since been demolished, leaving an empty lot that can now be sold to someone wanting to build a new house or a neighbor who wants more space next to their residence. (photo submitted)

“The Phoenix Initiative is intended to be a collaborative effort between the county and local governments or any other qualified partner,” explained County Commissioner Todd D. Wolfrum, a local attorney who initiated the program based on Section 307.07 of the Ohio Revised Code. “We offer a 50 percent match to assist communities demolish either abandoned structures or ones that have been turned over to the county for back taxes. The demolition would then leave either green space or a building lot, which can then be sold, with the proceeds going back into the program.”

Derelict properties are often safety hazards, said County Commissioner Stan Owens.

“Abandoned properties may tempt curious children, who could easily be injured by rusty nails or rotted boards,” Owens noted. “These properties also attract animal or bug infestations that present a hazard to the community. The ‘broken windows’ theory of criminology says abandoned buildings are a signal that crime is coming. We want to give local leaders another tool to help protect their communities.”

Blighted properties, many of which are a stark reminder of the recent foreclosure crisis, are also a stumbling block to economic development efforts, added Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger. “A neglected property not only presents an eyesore to the neighborhood, but a signal to potential developers, investors or small business owners that the area is on a downhill slide. That is not a message any of us want to send.”

The property at 525 N. Chestnut St. will be listed for sale, according to Van Wert Mayor Don Farmer, who added that a buyer would qualify for a five-year property tax abatement under the city’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) program.

To find out more about the Phoenix Initiative or to bring a project to the Commissioners, contact their office at 419.238.6159, Deputy Auditor Jamie Bradford at 419.238.0843, or check the county’s website, www.vanwertcounty.org, for more details.

POSTED: 05/30/15 at 7:22 am. FILED UNDER: News