Leetonia Council gets proposal offering solution for property

LEETONIA- Village Council has been presented with a solution for abandoned property owned by the village.

Justin Hite, an intern with the village, presented a proposal to council Wednesday night that would turn municipally owned property over to a individuals interested in starting a business. The program is based on one enacted by the village of Braddock, Pa., which acts on an ordinance that automatically transfers ownership of abandoned properties to the village, he said.

The village owns the former Tony’s Pizzeria on Walnut Street, which was purchased with the intent of storage and office space but has not been used. Hite said council could use the proposed program to offer the building to a start-up business, either by giving it to the business owner or by letting it go for just the back taxes.

Hite said council would have to create a board of individuals qualified to evaluate business plans in order for the program to work. The board would then accept several business proposal, review them and ultimately approve the one that provides the greatest benefits to the village.

“What it does is encourage small businesses in the community,” he said. “The downside is that not all businesses are really appropriate for their community. Obviously you have to look for the ones that offer the best business sense, some sustainability, for it to work.”

Village Solicitor Walter Newton questioned the program, asking what would happen if the business fails, how the village gets the property back. He also had concerns about gifting a property to an individual, noting that municipal property must be auctioned off.

Council members expressed interest in the program and the possibility of generating business in the village and requested Hite consult the Columbiana County Port Authority to determine the program’s feasibility.