At the recent Village of Gambier Council meeting held on Jan 4, members heard a presentation from Jeff Gotke, vice president of the Knox County Area Development Fund, on two development and revitalization projects that have invited the Village’s participation.
The first project involves the Knox County Land Bank, a “quasi-governmental agency . . . whose purpose is to deal with property no one wants anymore,” according to Gotke. Land banks acquire properties that are vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent. Land banks do not have to put the property up for public bid or sell it for back taxes. “The Land Bank’s goal is to find the highest and best use of a property, not just who has the most money on the day of the sale,” Gotke said.
Land banks are able to sell property to people for only a few thousand dollars, provided they fix it up and make good use of it, such as converting it for public use as in a park or garden. “Land banks serve a community revitalization function as well as just returning houses to the tax rolls,” Gotke said.
After several minutes of questioning the specifics of its operations, the Council appeared enthusiastic about the idea of letting the Land Bank operate in Gambier. “There are . . . distressed towns that love their land bank . . . this really does spruce up neighborhoods,” Mayor Kachen Kimmel said. In order for the Land Bank to operate, the mayor must sign a contract to allow it to act within the municipality; this resolution will be on the agenda for the next meeting.
Next, Gotke spoke about the Knox County Area Development Foundation’s proposal to help the county villages with strategic planning. The Foundation has promised to provide complete financial support for every village to create their own development plan by 2019. The Knox County Area Development Foundation will cover all of the costs, while the Village of Gambier will have considerable choice in what projects are best for their own needs. The main requirement is that Gambier work with other villages in Knox County to select a vendor to undertake the developmental projects. “I think it’s very exciting for the Village; it’s something I’d hoped for for a long time,” Kimmell said The vote to accept or reject the project will also be on the next meeting’s agenda.
After these presentations, Mark Kohlman, Kenyon’s chief business officer, spoke about the current construction projects in downtown Gambier. “Most of the Village project is done, [and] the Chilito’s restaurant people are starting to do their work inside,” Kohlman said. An extension has been granted concerning the event space in the third new building, which will now begin construction in the summer. The Council also discussed traffic concerns in the construction area and a possible renovation of the Gambier Community Center.