Land bank acquires first property

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This property on Toledo Street in Glouster, with the mobile home to be removed by the previous owner, became the Athens County Land Bank’s first property acquisition this past Monday through a process known as a deed in lieu of foreclosure.


The county’s land bank, otherwise known as the Athens County Land Reutilization Corporation, is celebrating the acquisition of its first property, which came earlier this week.

County Treasurer Ric Wasserman gave a report about the acquisition to Athens Twp. trustees on Tuesday, and also posted photos and a summary of the acquisition on social media.

Acquisition came from a property at 156 Toledo St. in Glouster through a deed in lieu of foreclosure, Wasserman said. The previous owner of that property, Gregory Beha, turned over the deed to the land bank. In exchange, Beha Services, LLC, will no longer be responsible for about $6,000 in back taxes owed.

Wasserman said the purchase marked an important day for the land bank as it starts to make purchases of mainly dilapidated residential properties — and some commercial properties as well — throughout the county. The properties being purchased are blighted and no longer have occupants, although some properties do still have active owners who have struggled to dispose of them and/or pay back taxes.

Right now, the land bank board, of which Wasserman is a member, is most interested in removing blight from a run-down property.

He posted photos of Land Bank Chairman Chris Chmiel signing documents Monday with Cherie Gall, the land bank’s attorney. Gall’s involvement to prepare documents, including a title search, only cost the land bank about $750, Wasserman said.

“So the entire acquisition of this property cost us very little money,” Wasserman added.

Athens Twp. Trustee Steve Pierson asked whether the first property purchased can be developed for future use. The land bank does not yet have an “end user” identified for the property — someone willing to purchase it from the land bank and make a written commitment to redevelop the property using agreed-upon guidelines. The property is on a flat piece of land and certainly has utility hookups so there is no reason it cannot be developed by an “end user” once someone makes an acceptable offer, Wasserman said.

He added that Beha agreed to remove a mobile home that has been situated on the property.

“We are one step closer toward fulfilling the promise and potential of our land bank,” Chmiel said. “This property is the first of many that we hope to acquire and revitalize for the betterment of our communities.”

Beha owns a number of properties in the village of Glouster that the land bank will likely become involved in acquiring, Wasserman said, and he has already paid about $12,000 in back taxes owed to keep some of his properties. The land bank may accept other properties from Beha using the same deed in lieu of foreclosure, Wasserman said. Other properties that have liens on them would require a an expedited foreclosure process for future acquisition, he noted.