City Council advances land bank legislation

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When City Council meets next Tuesday, it'll take up legislation to form a land bank corporation.

Last night, a Council committee voted unanimously to advance the legislation. No members asked questions on the proposal.

Land banks are new to New York State, but several are now up and running, including one in greater Buffalo. The entities are intended to help governments with foreclosure powers — the city in this case — address vacant properties. State legislation gives them flexibility in dealing with tax-delinquent and abandoned properties that local governments do not automatically possess.

Under the City Council legislation, the land bank corporation will not have eminent domain powers. It'll be used to bolster existing programs for demolitions, to acquire and rehabilitate housing, and to combine smaller lots into developable parcels. The land bank will be able to buy tax liens and foreclosed properties from the city, which gives the city an avenue to dispose of foreclosures outside of auctions where the properties must be sold to the highest bidder. (For more on land banks, see this October 17 article).

The proposal does carry some urgency. The land bank needs state approval and applications are due November 30. That application requires a copy of the local law establishing the land bank.

The application also requires a list of the initial board members. The Rochester legislation establishes a legal corporation without a separate staffing structure, a common setup for land banks. The board would have seven members, five of whom are city staff. Two would be appointed. Mayor Tom Richards plans to appoint attorney George Parker, and City Council President Lovely Warren plans to appoint Council Vice President Dana Miller.

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