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MONONGAHELA – The Washington County Lank Bank has reached out to Monongahela about a potential agreement to convert some of the city’s abandoned and tax-delinquent properties to productive uses.

On Monday, Rob Phillips, assistant community development director for the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County, spoke about the land bank during a workshop meeting of Monongahela Council. Phillips, who oversees the Washington County Land Bank, told council members that Monongahela could reap many benefits by participating in the program.

“Land banks help to reduce blight, decrease crime, increase the tax base and improve the overall quality of life,” he said. “The past three years, we have purchased, rehabilitated and sold a dozen properties throughout Washington County, including houses, commercial buildings and vacant lots. We see a lot of potential right here in Monongahela.”

Currently, East Bethlehem Township, East Washington, Canonsburg, Charleroi, Marianna and West Brownsville are participating in the land bank.

Municipalities are required to pay a $3,000 initiation fee, followed by a $1,000 annual fee. Under terms of the agreement, municipalities have to maintain and secure properties until they are sold. Each municipality must also identify potential properties for acquisition by the land bank.

Once properties are sold, both the land bank and the participating municipality will equally share tax revenues for five years.

“Tax sharing may seem like a lot, but it’s a real bargain when you consider that these properties weren’t even on the tax rolls before,” said Phillips. “After five years, you will be recouping 100 percent of the tax revenues.”

Solicitor Todd Pappasergi is reviewing a sample intergovernmental agreement before council members continue discussions about whether to join the program. If the council agrees to participate, the land bank will also have to sign off with Ringgold School District and the Washington County commissioners.

Phillips doesn’t see a need for the land bank to target that many properties in Monongahela for rehabilitation.

“The downtown and residential areas are in pretty good shape,” he said. “There are just some pockets here and there where we would come in and rehabilitate a house or two. Sometimes that’s all it takes to revitalize an entire neighborhood.”

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