- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—BARBERTON — Owners of vacant properties will need to register their lots and submit a $10,000 cash bond to the city — money the city will tap to maintain the properties if the owner doesn’t.

Meanwhile, the city is taking steps to dispense of nearly 100 vacant lots it owns, primarily unbuildable land that could go to neighbors who want to grow their own property.

City Council approved ordinances on both issues Monday night, its last meeting before an August recess.

The vacant property registration language was patterned after similar legislation in Youngstown.

Currently, if the city has to mow a lawn or board up an abandoned building, it puts the cost on the tax duplicate, Mayor Bill Judge explained.

But “when someone buys that house, now they have to pay those assessments,” Judge said. “That’s not really fair to them, but that’s how many cities do it.”

The cash bond puts the responsibility on the property owner. If the property is maintained and the city doesn’t need to step in, the money will be returned to the owner when the property is sold.

Judge guessed the city may have 200 to 250 vacant properties at any time, many of them owned by banks.

“A lot of the banks aren’t even in the state of Ohio, and they don’t really care about the property,” Judge said. “Some banks might not even realize we’re cutting their lawns.”

No one has challenged Youngstown on the law since that city implemented it a few years ago, Judge said.

That city has been helping Barberton prepare its own program, including sharing contact information for the banks so “there’s no surprise” when Barberton contacts them about the registration and cash bond.

On the issue of the city’s own vacant lands, council gave the mayor permission to begin courting buyers.

Over the past two years, the city has torn down more than 200 blighted residential and commercial structures using $1.6 million in county, state, foundation and city money.

In each case, the property of the demolished building was put up at sheriff’s sale twice. Those that didn’t sell were offered to the city, free of taxes and liens.

Of the nearly 100 lots now owned by the city, 75 percent of them no longer meet modern lot size requirements for new construction. In those cases, the properties will be offered to adjacent land owners for 15 cents a square foot.

For buildable parcels, the sale price is 75 cents a square foot, or a minimum of $4,500.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/paulaschleis.

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(c)2015 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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