The biggest challenge facing the county redevelopment authority is the lack of funding to tackle the scourge and redevelopment projects.
They heard on Wednesday of one possibility of meeting this challenge – the formation of a county land bank.
A land bank is a “Governmental or non-profit authority created to acquire, maintain and stabilize vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties while working with other entities to promote the productive reuse of properties” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said the proposal was to turn the GDR into a land bank.
Phil Gilbert, who chairs the GDR, said the movement would not create a new organization but would add “a little oomph” what the GDR can do.
Eggleston said there are 25 land banks across the state, the closest being Venango County and two in Erie County.
He stressed that this structure gives the GDR a “An easier way to acquire a property”. The program would be managed at the county level, he explained, with municipalities and the school district – if possible – joining together through intergovernmental agreements. These agreements would be necessary “In order to have part of the taxes collected” through a property redeveloped by the land bank, return to the land bank to finance its operations.
He said a land ban “creates this community-understood collaboration to encourage redevelopment and also help finance the GDR as an entity.
“This is a method for creating chains” to remove some of the “negative” that can come with these properties. “(If we) can eliminate some of these negatives, (they’ll be) more appealing to hand someone over to rearrange them.”
The structure would allow the RDA to better control where a property is transferred and is “not a method for just returning properties.”
Eggleston called him “another step” in the county’s ten-year-old rusting process.
Gilbert said the law would also allow a land bank to skip the line during tax sales.
The big problem is always how to fund an initiative and this is no exception here.
Eggleston called this a “An entirely separate discussion that needs to take place.” (It is) rare that they are completely self-financing.
Future presentations on the possibility will be made to the Commissioners, the Council of Governments, the Town of Warren and reasonably the Warren County School District.
“Carrying out this project together makes a lot of sense” County planner Dan Glotz said.
“I think we need it” Authority member Chuck Barone added.
Authority member Joe Whipp requested more time to review the information.
“Everything looks wonderful” he said. “(There is) always a downside to everything.” He said he would like to hear from other counties about the challenges they faced in this process.
Gilbert, who is also the county’s director of tax claims, said he was seeing properties coming up for sale and the new owners were “not doing anything.”
“It does not work,” he said, suggesting the need for the GDR “to intervene” and find a creative solution. “It’s perfect.”
“(This) seems to be a real positive”, Glotz said.