Tuesday, July 22, 2014



SCLRC ("the Land Bank")









One of the wisest ideas to take hold in Stark County government in many, many of a year was the creation of and the development of the Stark County Land Reutilitzation Corporation (SCLRC/Land Bank) back in 2012.  (March 21, 2012, the SCLR was formed as a non-profit, quasi-government entity)

And Stark County treasurer Alex Zumbar deserves "the lion's share" of credit in getting the entity up and going so that county government has a mechanism to help Stark County's urban areas rid themselves of blighted properties and thereby create cleared space with which "to re-invent" themselves.

One county public figure told the SCPR that Canton, for instance, is a city that was built to be a 140,000 resident city but now has to deal with the reality of being a 70,000 or so population sized cities.
All of which means that this Hall of Fame city and Stark's county seat is adjustinerg to and currently is caught up in a lot of negativity as it wrestles with the problems of "the great adjustment" which is underway.

Ditto for Stark's other major urban centers of Alliance, Massillon and North Canton.

Newly appointed economic development specialist for Alliance, Joe Mazzola, told the Land Bank board yesterday that demolition of delapidated housing was a key factor in restoring cities to economic viability and that funding of same is critical if urban Ohio communities including Stark's are to become attractive communities to those deciding where to live.

However, he cautioned that financial pressures on cities (e.g. the massive State of Ohio cuts in local government funding by the Republican governor John Kasich administration and the Republican dominated Ohio General Assembly) has crimped local governments in their striving to aggressively pursue the removal of blighted properties.

Under the grant funding now in place, there is $25,000 cap on reimbursable from the State of Ohio (i.e. Moving Ohio Forward) monies and that there are properties that will exceed the $25,000.

David Mayle (representing Massillon) echoed Mazzola's point.

See the complete video provided at the end of this blog (immediately before the Appendix) to pick up on the exact statements of Mazzola and Mayle.

At the end of the meeting, SCRPC director Bob Nau passed out a survey to the board members entitled:  "How can we plan for the future?"

In future blogs, the SCPR will bring Stark Countians up-to-date on the results of the survey.

One of the things that the county's commissioner form of government is plagued with has been being poorly equipped and financed, and therefore inadequate to the task of an effective force in aiding the county's urban centers to lead the way for Stark County to become "a county of destination" for those Americans seeking out ideal places to locate in and raise a new generation of Stark Countians.

As The Stark County Political Report sees it, the SCLRC is about all we've got in county leadership in terms of being a focal point of urban center coordinating and collective action that has the potential to turn the county's urban centers around economically and financially speaking.

The SCLRC, in terms of being "general fund" not restricted to "grant money" terms and conditions uses,  is funded by Delinquent Tax Assessment & Collection (DETAC) resources (at 5% of collections) and potential state and federal grants.
At the end of 2012, Stark County had $194,559 in DETAC (or General Fund finances), to wit from the audit:
General Fund - The general fund accounts for all financial resources that are received from the County Treasurer from penalties collected on delinquent property taxes and interest on those delinquencies. The general fund receives 5% of all collections of delinquent real property, personal property, and manufactured and mobile home taxes that are deposited into the County’s Delinquent Tax Assessment and Collection Tax (DTACT) fund. The general fund balance is available to the Corporation for any purpose provided it is expended or transferred according
to the general laws of Ohio.
At the end of 2013, the net DETAC funding stood at $863,622.  It appears to the SCPR that the Land Bank received $998,449 in county generated (DETAC) funds and spent $134,827.

The Report believes that the DETAC number is the primary number to focus on as a measure of the frugality and efficiency of the Land Bank administration inasmuch as other funding is of grant nature and is heavily restricted as to use in meeting grant purposes and objects.
Other funding includes, for instance; this from the year 2012 financial audit of the SCLRC, to wit:
The County Land Bank was successful in obtaining a two-year $2,000,000 demolition grant from the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine - Moving Ohio Forward program to assist in addressing demolitions of residential structures throughout Stark County.
The focus of this blog is on the importance of the "right questions" being asked by those who staff the board of directors of those who assist by virtue of their county/urban/township/village jobs and by virtue of contracted out administrative services (e.g Stark County's Regional Planning Commission [SCRP]) so as to make wise decisions on the use of the money that comes the SCLRC's way.

The board of directors include:

Alexander Zumbar, chairman
(also Stark County treasurer)

Lem Green, vice chairman
City of Canton representative

Thomas Bernabei, member
county representative

Janet Creighton, member
county representative

township representative (vacant)

The SCPR has been covering the Land Bank from the beginning and has a general impression that by and large the board has been asking the right questions and taking the proper actions.



For the most part, the SCLRC/Land Bank meetings have been uneventful.  But the January 21, 2014 meeting was full of controversy.  It may be the only one that the SCPR thinks that "the politics of the situation" surfaced.

Zumbar is a Republican, Green is a Democrat, Bernabei is a Democrat (and a former law director, councilman and service director [Healy administration], Creighton is a Republican (and former mayor of Canton) and the-then township representative was Scott Haws who is a Republican and Plain Township trustee.

The Question was whether or not the SCLRC/Land Bank would support a city of Canton request.

In the SCPR blog of February 3, 2014, (covering the January 21st meeting [see above], the question was set up thusly:
Only Mayor William J. Healy, II could pull this one off.

On the one hand,
  • making out that the Stark County Land Reutilization Corporation (SCLRC, "Land Bank") to be the problem getting in the way of Canton making a dent in achieving progress in tearing down abandoned eyesore residences and, then, 
on the other,
  • sending a representative (Chief of Staff Fonda Williams) to Land Bank meeting "with hat in hand" pleading with the SCLRC board members to sponsor Canton in making an application with the State of Ohio for more money to demolish the vacated properties.
As readers of the SCPR know, there is a lot of "bad blood" between Creighton (who lost her bid for reelection as mayor of Canton in 2007) and Bernabei (whom Healy fired as his service director in early 2009) vis-a-vis Healy.
Nonetheless, Creighton and Bernabei set aside their political party backgrounds and their differences with Healy to support Canton in its quest which ultimately became successful.

Zumbar and Haws, on the other hand, the SCPR thinks, let political considerations enter into their "no" votes on the issue of supporting Canton's request.


Then there was an incident in which Lem Green brought up the idea that he (a lawyer, but not "the" lawyer for the Land Bank) was spending an lot of time as a member of the board and doing tons of work in terms of examining title questions and other matters that perhaps he ought to be paid something for his efforts.

The Report's take is that after he sensed "a chilly reception" from and a number of his fellow board members on his idea; he dropped it.

And well he should have in the view of the SCPR.

There is no question that Green has done a lot of work for SCLRC interests as a board member.  But for him to start out as an "unpaid" board member and end up being paid would not set well with the taxpaying Stark County general public and in the interest of Stark Countians having confidence in the board and not abiding the appearance of insider dealing, it was good, the SCPR thinks, "to have read the tea leaves" and dropped the matter.

Yesterday, Green was appointed to a new term as Canton's representative on the board.


And most recently, it appears to the SCPR that it was Bernabei who stopped (in walking out of an "executive session" which included the topic) a Zumbar plan to have the Lank Bank board contract with the-then secretary/treasurer (a former Stark County treasurer for a few days in 2010) Jaime Allbritain (a Republican) to provide administrative services to the SCLRC as "an independent contractor."

Allbritain, the SCPR thinks, has done excellent work in the treasurer's office but "so-so" with the Land Bank as evidenced by the fact that the minutes and other aspects of the SCLRC webpage on the Stark County treasurer's website are NOT up-to-date.

Those having the responsibility of keeping the Stark County informed about Lank Bank proceeding need to correct the information deficiency on the webpage.

For the SCLRC to do business with her as an independent contractor in a contract award that would not have been bid out to the general public smacks too much of providing grist for the development of a public perception of "inside dealing" (even if untrue).

Interestingly enough, one week to the day after Zumbar's initiative to have the board award her an independent contractor contract, Allbritain resigned as secretary/treasurer of the SCLRC, to wit:

Bernabei told the SCPR (yesterday) that he thinks that an Allbritain hire is "a dead issue" and that Stark County Regional Planning will be doing much of the work that was contemplated had the independent contractor initiative survived.

Allbritain is currently county treasurer Zumbar's chief deputy.
While Zumbar is enormously talented and the SCPR thinks has done a tremendous job in restoring public confidence in the Stark County treasurer's office since Gary Zeigler resigned on October 11, 2011 and in getting the SCLRC up and running; The Report thinks he is too political and needs to learn to tone down the politics thing in discharge of his official duties.


This is the only case where the SCPR thinks that the Lank Bank board might be about to make a mistake.

At yesterday's meeting, as part of the Lank Bank's side lot program two Canton property owners were present for the purpose to advance competing claims for title to a vacant side lot where a now demolished building once stood.

It appears that a negotiation is about to take place between the parties and their respective parties designed to work out an mutually satisfactory division of the vacant lot.

Seems fair enough, no?

So what is the problem?

As pointed out to the SCPR by Joel Owens (in a discussion after the meeting), there is "one huge elephant in the room" (The Report's characterization; not Owens') in that the city of Canton may have an interest for the overall public good of an overall plan for the city that might not be compatible with either party's plan for the use of the property.

Picking up on Owens' point, the SCPR thinks that the Land Bank board needs to step back on the negotiations and institute a process for this particular decision that ensures that the projected use of the proposed vacant lot transfer is compatible with and enhancing of Canton's overall plan of space redevelopment.

Moreover, the process used in the instant proposed transfer needs to be refined as to being practical as a tool for the some 500 plus existing proposed side lot transfers under consideration by the SCLRC.

Getting back to the lead of this blog, that is to say:  "the wrong question" being asked which in this case the SCPR thinks is "how to be fair to the two competing interests in obtaining title to the side lot;" it seems to The Report the "the right question" would have included not only being fair to the competitors but also being fair to the entire body politic of the city of Canton and the city's comprehensive plan for future development.

The Report thinks Canton representative Lem Green should have interposed the city of Canton's interest and, of course, Owens himself could have and should have interjected it.

Owens tells the SCPR that Community Building Partners will have a major role in administering Canton's comprehensive plan if it is adopted by Canton City Council when it comes down about a year from now.

To reiterate, it is critically important for the future of Stark County's urban areas, that in doing demolition and in reallocating the vacant city landscape that "the pertinent and 'right" questions" be asked by all the players in the process.

Here is the video of the "entire" Lank Bank board meeting of July 21, 2014.



Stark County Regional Planning Commission (SCPRC) Moving Ohio Forward Update

SCRPC Moving Ohio Forward Update:
July 21, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m.

Non-Match Approved Property Update:

    1) City of Alliance - Twenty (20) demolitions (20 units of housing) have been complete, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office, for a total demolition cost, including soft costs of $241,468.95; 100% reimbursed to the City of Alliance. Alliance has added 5 additional properties to the MOF demolition listing (match to be made up with DTAC funding). Work is underway.

    2) City of Canton - 5 approved demolitions (5 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office, for a total demolition cost, including soft costs of $40,034.22; 100% reimbursed to the City of Canton.

    3) Perry Twp. - 3 approved demolitions (3 units of housing) completed, submitted to the State AG for reimbursement. Total demolition costs, including soft costs of $19,452.03; 100% to be reimbursed to Perry Township.

    4) Plain Twp. - 5 approved demolitions (5 units of housing) completed, submitted to the State AG's office for reimbursement. Total demolition cost, including soft costs of $25,357.12; 100% reimbursed to Plain Township.


    1) 43 demolitions (45 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AGs office. Total demolition costs, including soft costs - $619,466.57 ($500.00 match credit provided by Pike Twp.) (3 - Beach City, 1 - Canal Fulton, 1 - East Canton, 20 - Massillon, 2 -Meyers Lake, 1 - Navarre, 3 - Waynesburg, 2 - Wilmot, 1 - Canton Twp., 1 - Bethlehem Twp., 1-Lake Twp , 3 - Lexington Twp., 1 - Nimshillen Twp, 1 - Pike Twp., & 2 - Tuscarawas Twp.).

    2) 1 property under contract for demolition, for a total of $5,400.00 + soft costs/administration costs. (1 - Nimishillen Twp.)

    3) 2 properties out for asbestos evaluation. Once received, they will be bid for demolition. (1 -East Canton & 1- Waynesburg)

SCRPC Moving Ohio Forward Update:
July 21, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m. Page 2

Match Property - Subrecipient Update:

    1) City of Alliance - 7 demolitions (20 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office. Total demolition cost, including soft cost - $177,457.36. A total of $102,457.36 reimbursed to date. (As expected, the overall demolition costs exceeded the "matched" funding, $75,000.00, provided by Alliance. This unmatched funding, $27,457.36, was made-up with "MOF non-match funding".) No additional demolitions will be undertaken by Alliance utilizing match funding.

    2) City of Canton - 289 demolitions (326 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office. Total demolition cost, including soft cost- $1,950,136.89. A total of $975,068.36 reimbursed to date.   Additional demolitions are underway, but not yet submitted for reimbursement to RPC/State AG.

   3) Perry Twp. - No additional properties outside of the 3 non-match addresses will be completed.

    4) Plain Twp. - Eleven (11) additional demolitions (11 units of housing) have been complete, and submitted for reimbursement to the State AG's office. Total demolition cost, including soft costs - $74,389.33. A total of $37,194.65 reimbursed to date. It is not expected that Plain Twp. will undertake additional demolitions utilizing match funding.

>   Total Available MOF Grant: $2,343,607.00

>  Total Reimbursement submissions to date: $1,901,916.72

 (Balance available to submit: $441,690.28)    (Administration credited to date: $91,769,599)
>    Total Non-Match funding available - $510,703.08 ($500,000 non-match funding + $10,703.08 match credit)
Invoiced to date: $510,703.08
Remaining balance to be submitted for reimbursement: $ -0-

>    Total Match funding available - $1,832,903.92
Invoiced to date: $1,391,213.64
Remaining to be submitted for reimbursement: $441,690.28 


Stark County Regional Planning Commission (SCPRC) Side Lot Update

SCRPC Side Lot Program Update:
July 21, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m.

Side Lot Program Update: 

Canton City Applications

1) Total: 484

All other Community Applications

1)    Cities:
Alliance - 37, Massillon - 38

2)    Other communities where side lots have been submitted:

Bethlehem Twp -2, Brewster - 1, Canton Twp - 5, East Canton - 4, East Sparta - 4, Hartville - 3, Lake Twp - 1, Lexington Twp - 4, Minerva - 1, Nimishillen - 1, Osnaburg Twp - 4, Paris Twp - 1, Perry Twp - 1, Plain Twp - 7, Sugarcreek Twp - 1, and Washington Twp - 1, Waynesburg - 1.

>Total Applications Submitted: 601
>Total Number pending approval: 281
>Total Number of Applications Denied: 110

>Total Number of Approved Applications:
>Total Number Pending Deposit Receipt / Request to Treasurer for Foreclosure / Completed Foreclosure Proceeding: 169

>Total Number Ready/Scheduled for Transfer: 12

>Total Number Pending Easement Restrictions from City of Canton: 7

>  Total Number Transferred to Date: 22

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