We asked for a meeting with Mr. John Rogers, , Executive Director of the Lake County Land Bank, to discuss several of the properties in Lake County that are being helped by the Lake County Land Bank:
- Mary Magadelene Rectory and Convent in Willowick
- Crossroads in Painesville
- Vacant Building at 75 North State Street in Painesville
Mr, John Rogers met with four of us today. He took the time to educate us on the who, what, and why there is a need for a Land Bank. Rather that recite what is on their website, here is their website that you can review: http://lakecountylandbank.org/#
The concept of the Land Bank was established by the State of Ohio and their rules and regulations are covered under Ohio Revised Code section 1724. For those that like to read legalese, here is their website that you can review: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1724
There is some flexibility on how the entity can be set-up. Mr. Rogers chose to establish the Lake County Land Bank as a Non-Profit 501 (c ) (3) under the IRS regulations. It’s official name is the Lake County Land Reutilization Corporation. It is not a government entity, but there is governmental representation on their Board with two Commissioners, the County treasurer, and several members from Lake County communities. (Comment: We have attended several Land Bank Board meetings, and we see active participation from the Board members, and they are not just a “rubber stamp” for Mr. Rogers)
The Land Bank receives funding from several different sources:
1. The Lake County commissioners approved a 5% fee of the funds generated by the Treasurer’s Office for penalties and interest charged to taxpayers that are delinquent of paying their real estate taxes. This amounted to $700,000 for 2017.
2. Federal and State of Ohio grants: From MOF (Moving Ohio Forward) 9/13 – 1/15, they spent $1,183,000 to cover 64 demolitions. From NIP (Neighborhood Investment Program), they received $1,250,000 and have spent $967,498 to date on 31 homes. (Comment: There seems to be a virtual “sea of money” available for a myriad of projects in Lake County. Knowledge of how the whole system seems to be key to ensure we get our share of the largess. We just wonder what is expected of our public officials and the taxpayers to get the money.)
3. Property sales
4. Borrow money from various sources
5. Donations – pemitted since they are an I.R.S. 501 (c ) (3) Non-Profit
We do believe that there is a valid need for a Land Bank in each County. There are currently 47 of them in the State of Ohio. They do provide a necessary function of removing blighted properties, which will increase property values of the surrounding properties, and may enable the County to collect property taxes on the refurbished properties.
(Comment: Mr. Rogers seems passionate about his role as the Executive Director, and is very well qualified with his legal background to sort through the legal maze associated with abandoned or neglected properties. Our only issue is that this appears to be a full-time position, and with Mr. Rogers also being a State Representative, we are not sure if he can adequately serve both masters.)
Mr. Rogers was asked what he considers when he gets a request for assistance in demolishing, or restoring a building. He replied that there are many factors, but the one factor that is not considered is if the requesting party has the financial resources to pay for the work? Mr. Rogers stated that he does not inquire about the financial capabilities of the owners of the property. (Comment: This is where we must object to Mr. Rogers’ policy. When ANY entity has the ample financial resources, in our opinion they should not look to the taxpayers to bail them out)
Here is why we asked for the meeting:
- Mary Magadelene, the Roman Catholic Church in Willowick, requested the Land Bank’s assistance in demolishing their convent and rectory that they had abandoned more than 15 years ago. They had let the property become blighted through sheer neglect and an unwillingness to do their part to maintain the property. The City of Willowick, for some reason, did not condemn the property, and make the Church do what was necessary to be good members of the community.
Here is a picture of the buildings to illustrate how the Catholic Church neglected their role as community members: Pic 1
Mr. Rogers stated that he has estimated that the cost of demolition will be $175,000 . The parcel of land will be “donated” to the Land Bank, and there may be 1 or 2 homes built on the land. However, Mr. Rogers does not believe that he can recoup the $175,000 that taxpayers will have to pay. So we can say the the taxpayers have donated to the Catholic Church even if they are not a member.
With the financial resources of the Catholic Church, we do not think that they should be solving their problems with other people’s money. Here is an example of their financial strength.
Summary of revenue and expenses for 2016 (64.6% of their expenses in the form of compensation) : Form 990 Summary page 1 2016
Balance Sheet as of 12/31/16 (note the $19,769,475 marketable securities and almost $8 million in cash on hand: Balance sheet 2016
- The non-profit Agency known as Crossroads recently purchased the old Colony Lumber facility in Painesville. There were two buildings that needed to be demolished, and again, another “well-heeled” non-profit knocks on the door of the Land Bank and gets $35,000 for the project. This is after Crossroads had already received a Community Block Grant that they turned down.
Here is an excerpt of Crossroads Form 990 filed with the I.R.S.. Please note that they have over $7,000,000 in marketable securities. Crossroads Balance Sheet as of 6-30-16
3 There is an abandoned building at 265 North State Street in Painesville. It is across the street from the St. Mary’s Church, and was formerly a car dealership. The property is being aggressively pursued by a group known as Hola. They originally sold the Lake County Commissioners and the Land Bank on the idea of creating an “incubator kitchen” so that their members can make cakes, cookies, etc. and sell them at farmer’s markets. However, their “incubator kitchen” has evolved into a Community Center complete with stage and meeting rooms.
There are many problems with the building. There is only one parking space for the facility; the roof needs to be replaced at a cost of $80,000, fuel storage tanks will need to be filled with concrete, and all of these costs will be borne by the taxpayers.
So far, nearly $300,000 of taxpayers’ money has been designated for Hola’s Community Center. To the best of our knowledge, Hola has no personal investment in their Community Center. Hola will have to apply for exemption from payment of real estate taxes and, if approved, there will be no real estate taxes collected on this property.
(Comment: We have no issue with any community center. However, if it is to be privately owned for the benefit for only one group of people then they should use private not public funds to buy and refurbish the building It is our recommendation that this eyesore be demolished)
We welcome any comments or questions that you may have. We will do our best to gather the information for all of the citizens of Lake County.