A scooped-up side lot and the riverfront parcel that mysteriously got away: How rules written for distressed  ‘Rust Belt’ property may benefit a select few

This project provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join Eye on Ohio's free mailing list as this helps provide more public service reporting to your community. On May 12, 2021, Chris and Angela Powers submitted a $4,000 bid for a Lawrence County Land Bank property. 

It was above the Auditor’s appraised value of $3,340. But the Powers really loved the riverfront site. The owner of an adjoining property had let them camp right next to it for years. 

So they bid for the wooded parcel, on the northern bank of the Ohio River, as well as an adjoining parcel - not on the river, but just behind it. 

The Powers attended a May 18, 2021 land bank meeting.

Taxpayers Lose Out on at Least $11.25 Million, Homeowners and Banks Lose up to $80 Million in Little-known Foreclosure Process That Skips Sheriff’s Sales

This story was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

For years, Elliot Feltner’s father-in-law operated an auto body shop in Cleveland. Later in life, a stroke debilitated the old mechanic, and his care proved a heavy burden for Feltner’s wife, Linda. 

Not long after burying her father, in 2009, Linda Feltner discovered her chronic cough was more than just bronchitis: it was cancer. She died three years later. 

When Elliot Feltner finally sorted through the medical bills and the loss of his only family, he discovered the body shop property he inherited owed considerable back taxes, which he couldn’t afford. So he put the shop up for sale and told the county he’d use the proceeds to pay off the debt. 

But after signing a buyer, the sale fell through because Feltner discovered the property had already been sold to the county land bank, he says without his knowledge. 

“They called me one day and said you don’t own the property. Someone else does.