Sharon officials consider forming land bank

Sharron land bank

SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – Sharon officials are looking at forming a land bank to tackle vacant and blighted homes in the city.

City Council still needs to vote on it, but City Manager Scott Andrejchak said he sees it as a tool that help with a number of things. Getting the houses back on the tax books could help fund demolitions and other community revitalization projects.

If the land bank proposal gets the green light, it will start small, with city officials using other land banks in Pennsylvania as models.

“I think we are going to set reasonable goals and realistic goals in what the land bank does. It is not the answer to every specific blighted property,” Andrejchak said. “What it could do for us, we think it could intervene in some of the judicial sales. There are some properties that we have identified that are blighted, some of which have value, so we believe that this vehicle is one tool that we could use in some way to intervene in those sales, really to get the properties back on the tax rolls. That is the end game of all of this.”

Sharon Fire Chief and Code Enforcement Officer Robert Fiscus showed an example of a house that could be included in the land bank.

“It could be great for an owner, an occupied house for someone to move in and raise a family. It is in a neighborhood that is still very viable,” Fiscus said.

If the land bank is approved, a land bank board would be created, with members appointed by City Council.

Andrejchak said he has been going to lots of meeting about land banks, learning exactly how they work. He said people from Ohio have been at those meetings and have been a resource too.

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership is revitalizing Warren neighborhoods. In 2014, 200 properties were put to productive use.

The organization renovated a home on Vine Avenue in Warren, which director Matt Martin said was sold very quickly. A vacant lot on Mercer Avenue is going to stay green.

“There is a garden next door to that vacant lot and we will double that garden over into that space,” Martin said.

Work is being done on a house on Scott Street.

“This will be a move-in ready property for sale in Warren’s garden district. Probably ready in next month,” Martin said. “We would like to renovate more houses and create more home ownership opportunities.”

TNP runs the county’s land bank and has lots of projects on tap this year. Martin thinks a land bank could be a good thing for Sharon, saying it is another revitalization tool.

“We are one of the communities that is struggling with blight the most. So we are at a point where we just think we should undertake it,” Andrejchak said.

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