Land bank looks to revitalize community
LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Logan County leaders are working to eliminate problem properties and turn them into opportunities through a new land bank program.
The system is designed to boost economic development and investment in the county at a time when thousands of people are visiting the area every weekend for the Hatfield McCoy Trails. Many tourists are unable to find places to stay due to a lack of hotels and campgrounds, according to Economic Development Director Rocky Adkins.
By removing the dangerous and unsightly structures, new residents and businesses can move into the area to provide goods and services to tourists.
“How we present ourselves to them is important,” Adkins said about tourism. “We want to be cleaner, we want to be neater, we want to be good caretakers of the area we are living in. It will create, essentially, more investment.”
County Code Official Ray Perry said many of these abandoned properties have collapsed, been flooded or caught fire. Tearing them down prevents people from getting inside or a child possibly getting hurt. The county is also able to restore the property’s value and resume earning tax revenue from it.
Perry said some of the property owners have torn down the structures themselves, while officials have had to demolish other structures. The county is also buying land at the State Auditor’s auction to repurpose it and sell it to potential investors.
The Logan County Commission, Logan Housing Authority and local city and town leaders are all working together to improve the area and make it more presentable to tourists. Once a property is cleared, leaders work together to figure out what is the best use for that land.
“When you have something like this that is basically an eyesore and an hazard, once you get it down it becomes developable property and then you can entice investors,” Logan Fire Chief Scott Beckett said. “They are being very proactive, and we are on the verge of being able to get all of these to come down. It is going to create a huge opportunity for tourism and for families to be able to purchase properties to build new homes.”
At one point, there were close to 500 dilapidated properties across Logan County. County Commission President Danny Godby said around half of the properties have already been cleared and processed by the land bank.
Businesses are already taking advantage of this open land. Almost Heaven Cabin Rentals started with one small rental cabin, and has quickly grown to seven luxury cabins that are booked almost all year. Barry Stowers said they plan to build even more cabins later this year to keep up with the demand for places for tourists to stay.
While the Hatfield-McCoy Trails is the main draw, Stowers said many people have started kayaking and doing other outdoor recreation activities.
County leaders are hopeful this trend will continue and organizations can utilize the land bank to continue growing the area’s economy that was hit hard by the loss of coal.
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