The West Virginia University College of Law is using a $120,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to help revitalize cities and towns in the state.
Awarded to the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, the grant is supporting a program called West Virginia Legal Education to Address Abandoned/Neglected Properties, or WV LEAP. Through the program, clinic attorneys and students will help communities deal with decaying, abandoned, or uninhabitable buildings.
According to Katherine Garvey, director of the LUSD Law Clinic, neglected properties can be difficult for municipalities to address because of a lack of clarity on applicable laws, problems locating property owners and legal complexities related to property titles.
With WV LEAP, Garvey hopes to provide state municipalities with the tools and strategies available to them through technical legal assistance.
During the spring and summer of 2015, the LUSD Law Clinic will compile data and conduct legal research that will be made available to municipal attorneys as a resource on specific steps communities can utilize to combat problems of abandoned or decaying properties.
Emphasis will also be placed on educational outreach initiatives. The WV LEAP team will conduct a Continuing Legal Education session for West Virginia attorneys on May 14 in Charleston.
WV LEAP was started in collaboration with the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center. The LUSD Law Clinic is also a member of West Virginia’s Abandoned Properties Coalition, which formed to advocate statewide policy solutions for streamlining blight redemption.
The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has served West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania since it was established in 1944 by Michael and Sarah Benedum. Grants are made to support specific initiatives in the areas of education, economic development, health and human services, and community development.
The Benedum Foundation grant to the WVU College of Law is part of A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University, a $1 billion fundraising effort the WVU Foundation is conducting on behalf of the University.