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Land Bank to request deed transfer fee to fund demolitions

Warren County’s Land Bank has requested that the county commissioners consider a $15 fee on all deed transfers and mortgages to fund its demolition efforts.

Chief Clerk Pam Matve told the land bank board on Tuesday that Act 152 allows the county to impose the fee.

The funding would be restricted to demolition. Dollars raised from transfers in the city of Warren would go to the city for demolition. Everything else would go to the landbank. Matve said that the fee would have raised over $2,000 in the county and almost $600 for the city in December 2023.

“If we don’t do this,” she said. “We need to find a way to keep the land bank going.”

The county committed three years of $15,000 each to fund the landbank but that funding currently expires at the end of 2025.

Matve said other counties have implemented the fee, which allowed Lawrence County to address 50 properties.

“That’s a ton of money that we don’t need,” Joe Whipp, landbank member and real estate agent, said. “Going for $15 on every deed is too much.”

He argued that it is not “fair to tax a person doing deed transfers to clean up somebody else’s mess,” proposing a model that would tax everyone.

“Why can’t you just charge everybody a dollar?” he asked. “Not just people who deal in real estate. That’s wrong.”

“We don’t have any income sources,” Chuck Barone, land bank board member said. “(We) need a funding source somehow.”

Land bank chair Phil Gilbert said that this funding proposal is a “good way to help funding the landbank” in his view.

The land bank board approved a recommendation to the commissioners in favor of enacting the fund in a 4-1 decision.

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