Gahanna city officials soon might get to take their land-bank program out for its first real spin.

Gahanna city officials soon might get to take their land-bank program out for its first real spin.

Council on Nov. 2 will hear the first reading of an ordinance to approve the supplemental appropriation of $75,000 -- proceeds from the recent sale of 3.4 acres at Landrum Court -- as "seed money" for its land-bank program, which was created by city ordinance in November 2004.

Land banks allow a municipality like Gahanna to "get unproductive property into someone else's hands to become revenue-producing property again," according to a detailed presentation by the department of planning and development to council's finance committee Oct. 26.

"There's been no need to put it into action until now," said Matt Huffman, community-development manager and planner. "We just ran into a particular property that we can address through this program."

The property in question is south of Morse Road in a neighborhood of well-kept homes. Huffman said it meets all six of the city's land-bank acquisition criteria: vacant, no utility usage, multiple code violations, nonresponsive owner, citizen complaints and poses a public nuisance.

Specifically, the home has been host to raccoons, Huffman said, and was found by the Franklin County Board of Health to be in unsanitary condition for habitation.

Franklin County treasurer Ed Leonard told the finance committee he commends the city for being proactive about identifying abandoned properties. Once a city has many deteriorating, abandoned homes, Leonard said, it's often too late to stop that momentum.

Through the program, properties may be acquired through sheriff's sales, from a county land bank, through receivership with environmental concerns and by donation. The city then advertises properties, with the emphasis on finding owner-occupying applicants who would return the property to productivity.

Sadicka White, planning and development director, emphasized that the city wants to "cause renovation," not be in competition with interested buyers. White said the $75,000 seed money is not intended to be used for just one project, but also would be a revolving fund to support future projects.

Granville-Hamilton Area Plan

inches forward

Also on Nov. 2, council will hear the second reading of an ordinance to approve a contract with Bird Houk Collaborative for the preparation of a Granville-Hamilton Area Plan.

The $49,500 estimated for the plan process already was part of the budget, White said. She told the finance committee the plan, similar to others implemented around the city, would gauge the effect of future development, give guidelines for development and redevelopment and coordinate with proposed traffic improvements at the Hamilton Road-Granville Street intersection.

"This is an ideal time for planning," White said, calling the process a cycle. "Development is at a plateau." She said that when it picks up again, "you're too busy to plan."

The planning process by a stakeholders committee, which includes property owners, schools, library and city staff and officials, is slated to begin in December and be finished by summer 2010.

Planning commission member Dave Thom has been involved in other plans for the city and urged council's approval, calling such a plan "the best tool we have to work with" outside the code "not only to promote future development but to protect some of the things we already have."

Finance committee chairman Shane Ewald noted several members of the committee were absent Monday night. Ewald asked White to solicit further questions from those members prior to the ordinance's second reading next week. Ewald asked that the item be placed on the regular agenda, rather than the consent agenda, to allow for discussion prior to a vote.