September 30, 2022

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Urban Renewal Authority debates giving mayor limited purchasing powers | News, Sports, Jobs




Parkersburg City Councilman Mike Reynolds asked a question during an Urban Renewal Authority meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Members of Parkersburg City Council on Tuesday debated whether to let the mayor purchase tax-delinquent properties without a vote from the Urban Renewal Authority.

No decision was made on the issue at the URA meeting, which followed a brief council meeting.

Development Director Ryan Barber said the URA typically addresses dilapidated properties by demolishing them and placing a lien on the property or acquiring them via eminent domain. The former manner is quicker but does not give the city control of the property. The latter allows the city to purchase and take ownership after a process that can take nine to 18 months.

But if the city bid on and purchased property from the state either at or following a tax sale, it could have ownership of the land to sell or redevelop in a matter of weeks, Barber said.

“It could be $100; it could be $500; it could be $1,000,” he said.

Parkersburg City Councilman J.R. Carpenter questioned a proposal to authorize the mayor to purchase tax-delinquent properties for up to $2,000 without a vote of the Urban Renewal Authority during a URA meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

But the city usually wouldn’t have enough time before a tax sale to get authorization from the URA, Barber said. City officials would have to place the item on an agenda and schedule an ad for it in the newspaper 30 days prior to the meeting.

“You’re not generally going to see a property for 30 to 45 days,” Barber said. “We’re given a list of property a matter of days before those tax sales.”

Barber said the city could also purchase properties that did not receive bids at tax sales, but someone else could make an offer in the time it would take to get the item on an agenda.

Councilman J.R. Carpenter said purchasing properties is the responsibility of the authority and its members, not the mayor.

“To give that power to one person is not the direction this URA should be taking,” he said.

Parkersburg Development Director Ryan Barber explained the rationale behind a proposed resolution to allow the mayor to purchase tax-delinquent properties from the state for as much as $2,000 without a vote by the Urban Renewal Authority during a URA meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Barber said the concern is the property would not be available after 45 days.

Carpenter said the authority could call an emergency meeting. Chairwoman Sharon Kuhl said she did not know if purchasing a property would constitute an emergency.

Kuhl asked if there could or should be a limit on how much could be spent in this manner. She said she did not want the mayor to spend all the money from the URA budget, before adding she was not specifically concerned about Mayor Tom Joyce.

“Not that he would do that. He’s very responsible,” Kuhl said. “I just think there ought to be a limit on it.”

Council President Zach Stanley pointed out that the rule would last beyond the current administration.

Parkersburg City Council President Zach Stanley spoke during an Urban Renewal Authority meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“There’s going to be a lot of different mayors that come through here,” he said.

Councilman Mike Reynolds said he likes the idea of giving the mayor this tool to address problem properties. He said council as the URA would still vote on whether to use city funds to demolish the properties once they’re acquired.

“If we still have the control of that, we still have control,” he said.

Reynolds asked if council could limit the duration of the program.

City Attorney Blaine Myers said council could include a sunset clause and set limits on how much could be spent in that manner.

Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority Chairwoman Sharon Kuhl, left, and Councilman J.R. Carpenter looked over paperwork during a URA meeting Tuesday as pictures of the property they were considering purchasing was projected behind them. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Stanley said good points were made on both sides and suggested members consider it further before taking action. Kuhl said recent legislation might also make a difference in how cities can deal with blighted properties.

Members voted to adjourn the meeting without voting on the resolution.

Earlier, they approved 8-0, with Councilwoman Jesse Cottrille absent, the donation of properties at 912 Latrobe St. and 803 Virginia Ave. The city had already demolished the structures on both sites.

They also voted 8-0 to purchase 1325 St. Marys Ave. from Charles Lawrentz for the fair market value of $1,000. Lawrentz said he was hoping to get more, but City Planner Connor LaVelle said the appraisal took into account the $11,415 estimated demolition cost.

At the council meeting, which lasted less than 10 minutes, council voted to receive and file the city’s fiscal 2021 audit report and approved a resolution authorizing American Legion Post 15 to use City Park for its annual Fourth of July carnival. No one spoke at a public hearing to consider objections to the budget estimate. Council approved the state auditor’s levy estimate and laid the levy for the upcoming fiscal year, with no changes, on 8-0 votes.




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