WEST VIRGINIA (LOOTPRESS) – Throughout West Virginia, our communities and leaders stand at a crossroads, faced with both challenges and opportunities. As we navigate the path toward economic revitalization, the role of land reuse agencies emerges as a crucial catalyst for change.
The vast potential lying dormant in underutilized properties demands our attention and action. It’s time for the West Virginia Legislature to recognize the transformative power of land banks in driving economic development.
Streamlining the state auditor’s tax sale process is a critical step in unleashing the latent potential of abandoned and blighted properties. This process is the only entity that can exercise first right of refusal on properties entering the West Virginia auditor’s tax sale process.
The bureaucratic hurdles often associated with tax sales hinder the swift acquisition of these parcels for redevelopment. By streamlining this process for land banks, we empower land reuse agencies to efficiently and quickly acquire properties, paving the way for creative repurposing that breathes new life into neglected spaces.
Incentivizing financial programs tailored to downtown redevelopment is another essential element of this legislative call to action. Our downtown areas, steeped in history and character, can become vibrant hubs of economic activity. By offering targeted financial incentives, such as tax credits and grants, we encourage private investment in these downtown districts. This not only revitalizes our urban cores but also fosters a sense of community pride and economic resilience.
Furthermore, the creation of funding avenues for recreation infrastructure development aligns with the ethos of creative repurposing. Our state boasts natural beauty and outdoor potential, yet lacks the infrastructure to fully capitalize on these assets. Allocating funds for recreation infrastructure development not only enhances the quality of life for residents but also positions West Virginia as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, bolstering tourism and local economies.
As we deliberate this year’s legislative priorities, let’s not overlook the multiplier effect that strategic investments in land reuse can bring. A well-crafted legislative framework supporting these initiatives is an investment in our future – a commitment to fostering resilient, thriving communities across the Mountain State. The economic benefits are tangible, from job creation and increased property values to the stimulation of local businesses.
West Virginia has a unique opportunity to lead the way in innovative economic development. Our landscapes tell stories of resilience and adaptation, and it’s time for our legislation to echo this narrative. By championing streamlined tax sale processes, incentivizing downtown redevelopment, and investing in recreation infrastructure, we lay the groundwork for a brighter, more prosperous future.
The call to action is clear – let us, as a state, embrace the power of creative repurposing and redevelopment through robust support for land reuse agencies.
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Jina Belcher is executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority whose mission is to initiate, facilitate and support the economic and community development efforts within the counties of Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers located in this region of southern West Virginia. Jina moderated a panel on the role of land reuse agencies in economic development on January 24 at the West Virginia Economic Development Council legislative conference. She was also named chair of the newly-created Fayette County Land Reuse Agency in September 2023. Jina resides with her family in Beckley, W.Va.