Put unused land to use, one state official recommends
By MARC KOVAC
COLUMBUS -- Upward of 1,200 acres of undeveloped land in Trumbull County are among state-owned sites in 20 counties that could be put to better use by surrounding communities, other agencies or private developers, according to a study of nearly 7,400 parcels unveiled Tuesday by state Treasurer Richard Cordray.
And the recently elected Democrat is pushing -- and Gov. Ted Strickland has voiced support -- for the creation of a centralized inventory of state-owned properties to identify additional sites that could be put to better use.
Cordray and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman discussed the findings while standing in front of a fenced, state-owned lot on the city's West Side that is overgrown with scrub brush.
According to the treasurer's office, the McKinley Avenue parcel has been owned by the state since 1845 and once served as a source for limestone used in the construction of the Statehouse, Ohio Penitentiary and U.S. Route 40. But nothing has been done to the property for nearly three decades.
Cordray estimated that there are about 446 comparably unproductive properties in 20 counties, with more than half of those identified in Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas and Stark.
In Trumbull County, 13 properties were identified, all undeveloped and owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They ranged in size from nine acres to more than 280 acres.
Cordray's office did leave room for error in the designations, however. Spokeswoman Theresa Dean said properties were identified based on photos and other information posted on county auditor Web sites, and additional research would be needed to clarify how properties are being used.
Cordray has recommended the creation of a commission, with appointments made by the governor, to complete a comprehensive inventory of state-owned land that could be updated annually and would allow public and private groups to submit proposals to make underused sites productive.
"In Ohio, the pedigree of ownership for any particular property may go back two centuries and may be quite snarled, and some of the properties are so peculiarly shaped as to be unusable," Cordray said in a released statement.
"Nonetheless, that information should be maintained, updated and readily accessible."
Strickland is supportive of Cordray's efforts and reform suggestions and is open to the possibility of creating a commission to review the state's land holdings, said Keith Daley, the governor's spokesman.