Between the lines
by M. Stewart
Given today's Morning Journal story about land for the Baard Energy project, it appears that Huntington Bank and the Columbiana County Port Authority are in the process of negotiating a deal for land outside Wellsville. I say "appears" only because both entities declined comment on the action.
According to the story, the port had an option to purchase 146 acres from Peter Barta II--that is, until the property was seized by the county after the owner was convicted on drug charges. The property was pulled from sheriff's sale when Huntington decided to withdraw the foreclosure.
If the port authority is negotiating with the bank, it should be able to get the property for much less than the original bid of $1.4 million. Even if the port does end up with the land and the Baard project falls through, someone eventually will come along and develop it, so it's a win-win situation for CCPA.
Under normal circumstances, the value of land skyrockets when public money is used to purchase it. For instance, the port was prepared to pay $1.4 million for land that appraised for a mere $159,000. The Bosco property in East Liverpool is another example--over $1.3 million for land worth a fraction of the price and with no developer waiting at the door. When you get bamboozled this badly, it's pretty clear why no one at city hall can remember who was present at the negotiations.
With the money the port authority is likely to save on the Wellsville property, maybe it can swoop down and rescue East Liverpool officials by purchasing the Bosco land.
Up north in Lisbon, county engineer Bert Dawson was able to restore the old Pittsburgh & Lake Erie train station with $815,000 in state and federal dollars. I can't help but wonder why these sorts of things don't happen in East Liverpool. I guess the answer is that Lisbon has people who are willing and able to preserve its historical structures.
Even without public funding, a lot of good can be done by those willing to invest in historic properties. JoAnne Frye and I were able to rescue and restore a magnificent 19th-century home in East Liverpool for under $100,000, and neither of us is even close to wealthy. Imagine what some of our wealthier citizens could do for our city if they chose to do so.