After the former city's crumbling roads were finally addressed by a sympathetic Kenton County government, the Fiscal Court is now looking at ways to help Latonia Lakes deal with its many issues of blight.
Approximately 15 homes in Latonia Lakes are vacant, an abnormally high number for a neighborhood, according to Drew Harris of the Kenton County Attorney's Office. The high vacancy rate affects property values of the remaining homeowners.
"Now that we are making such a large investment there, we can get the neighborhood up to speed," Harris told the Fiscal Court during a caucus meeting last week.
In April, the Fiscal Court adopted a financing plan valued at $1.24 million to address the former city's disastrous roads. The county is hoping for state dollars to pay for 75% of the work while the remaining 25% will be covered by the roughly 110 residents in Latonia Lakes. The residents' payments would be based on property values and would come in installments over 20 years. Latonia Lakes residents voted to dissolve itself as a city in 2006.
With a plan for the roads in place, the County Attorney's Office is hoping to spearhead a program that could either lead to the demolition of the troubled vacant properties or the transfer of the properties to neighbors or responsible owners. Some of the properties have no structures on them.
"Latonia Lakes, when it was originally formed, was a vacation community so if you look at the old plats at the post office in Independence, the parcels are trailer size, not something you could build a home on," Harris said. "Now we have these little slivers of land to combine together to make plats you could build a house on."
In total, there are 43 unimproved parcels, over half of which have never paid county property taxes. The total assessed value is roughly $115,000. "A lot of these owners have been deceased with no probate sale or estate sale. Neighbors just started squatting, putting driveways on land they've never seen the owner of, and just kind of taken over," Harris said.
A proposed Neighbor Purchase Program would implement a foreclosure proces on delinquent tax liens by the county attorney when a neighbor is willing to accept ownership of the property. The county and the new owner would close on the transfer once a price is agreed to, which would likely amount to the county's cost in the transaction.
The idea would increase the lot sizes in Latonia Lakes and result in less overgrown weeds, more new construction, more property tax revenue, and less burden on residents. That's good news to Jamie Twehues, an active Latonia Lakes resident.
Twehues was heavily involved in helping the county attorney's staff put together the information that led to the proposed program. "Some neighbors already have a lot. They've taken the yard. Why not have them pay taxes on it?," she said. "(Neighbors) are now wanting to put money back in the community because they know of the improvements that are coming."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photos provided by Jamie Twehues & Kenton Co. Attorney's Office