PDT Staff Writer
The Portsmouth City Health Department now has 14 properties for sale as a part of the Land Reutilization program.
The Land Reutilization program began in the City Health Department in 2007, was moved to the Community Development Department, and was recently returned to the Health Department with the understanding the program would remain there.
“The first thing we did was pay off any overdue bills, get all the finances straight,” Portsmouth Health Commissioner Chris Smith said. “We have 14 properties that have been foreclosed on, but hadn’t been deeded to the city yet. So we got those transferred. We set up our Neighborhood Advisory Committee as required by state law. All of the members of that committee were named by former Mayor Jane Murray, and their appointments are to expire on July 14, and I am not sure if Mayor (David) Malone will name new members.”
Smith said the Neighborhood Advisory Committee is important to the process.
“If we have multiple applications for the same property, that committee will give advice on who that property should go to,” Smith said. “We have a member from each ward on that committee. We also contacted our Tax District Committee, made up of anybody that would have an interest in the taxes.”
Those entities include the City of Portsmouth, Scioto County, the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and the Scioto County Career Technical Center.
Smith said there is an order as to how the city determines which houses to attempt to foreclose on and take ownership of.
“If someone is interested in a particular piece of property, we’re going to try to do those first,” Smith said. “Then, properties that are considered a nuisance that cannot be taken care of through normal channels, then properties the city is maintaining. And finally, tax delinquent properties. It is important for people to know these are vacant properties. Nobody is getting put out of their homes or anything like that. These are vacant, abandoned properties.” He said the Certified Delinquent List presently consists of 1,500 properties, and to qualify for that list, must have been certified delinquent, meaning they must not have had the taxes paid for two years.
Smith said all houses must sell at the fair market value. Currently, the price of a vacant lot is $2,000 and the price of a vacant house is $500.
“We don’t have to take the highest bidder,” Smith said. “If a landlord wants to put a rental property in, and somebody wants to renovate it for their home, we might say, ‘we have enough rental property, we’ll give it to that single family.’”
One of the families who took advantage of purchasing vacant property is the Billings family of Valley St., which purchased adjacent property.
“We wanted to expand our yard, because having condemned property around ours makes our property values go down, and we’re trying to make the neighborhood look nice,” Pebbles Billings said. “It is completely torn down. We’ve got the fence up, and we’re enjoying the yard. We absolutely love the program. We wish that it would have come out sooner.”
Smith said applications and information on properties are available at the City Health Department, 605 Washington St., at www.portsmouthhealthdept.org/environmental-health/land-reutilization-program, or by calling Smith at 740-353-5153, extension 227.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.