Move Carefully On ‘Rehab’ Idea

Belmont County’s “land bank” organization, more formally known as the Land Reutilization Corp., has gotten quite good at tearing things down during the past few years. It has established a praiseworthy record in razing dilapidated structures in the county.

In addition to helping local government entities save money directly in that regard, land bank employees have developed expertise beneficial in other ways. One example is help to the village of Belmont.

There, officials hope to demolish an old school building. But as so often is the case, the structure is chock-full of asbestos. Village officials had been told it would cost $199,000 to remove the material.

But after paying nearly $4,000 out of its own coffers for a new asbestos abatement evaluation, the land bank came back with a more manageable estimate of $87,000.

During the land bank’s board of directors meeting several days ago, the possibility of going in another direction was discussed. Instead of merely tearing down old buildings, the organization could rehabilitate some.

Most land banks “do pursue rehabs,” commented Chairwoman Kathy Kelich. “This land bank has never done a rehab before,” she noted.

One potential for such a project is a building on North Chestnut Street in Barnesville. “I think it would make a great project,” suggested Director Tim Hall.

Perhaps so. The idea ought to be considered — with caution.

More than a few local government entities have purchased dilapidated old buildings with the hope of rehabilitating them or selling them to private developers. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it results in taxpayers spending more than was anticipated and losing money on the deals.

The unfortunate fact of the matter in our area is that there are far more structures that ought to be demolished than hold the potential for rehabilitation and reuse.

Any renovation project is risky, of course. But, to avoid diverting funds from important demolition needs, land bank officials should be exceedingly careful if they choose to tackle a rehabilitation project.


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