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July 2014 Column - Land Bank already making a difference in the community


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

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oneilj - Posted on 09 July 2014

Sometimes it seems like government cannot do anything right. This perception is certainly shared by many. This is understandable, given the problems at government agencies from the Department of Veterans Affairs at the federal level to the Hamburg School Board at the local level. For this reason, it is important that people know about the land bank.

The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (aka the land bank) has been in existence for only a couple of years and is already starting to make a difference in our community. The primary purpose of the land bank is to acquire distressed properties, pay off back taxes, rehabilitate the properties and get them back on the tax rolls. It does so by submitting a “trump bid” for the properties at tax auctions. This is for the amount of taxes owed, and once the land bank submits its bid the bidding stops. This ensures that the property will be rehabilitated if necessary, sold and returned to the tax rolls. The land bank, therefore, is an important weapon in combating the spread of blight that afflicts too many of our neighborhoods in Erie County.

Recently, these efforts have hit home for me in my legislative district. A couple of properties have been obtained in the Town of Tonawanda. One, at 44 Pyle Court, has already been demolished with help from the town’s community development funds. The other, at 39 Fowler Ave. in Kenmore, will soon be cleaned up. The land bank will also be acquiring three properties in the City of Tonawanda at its upcoming auction: The properties are 465 Broad St., 272 Kohler St. and 585 Morgan St. Once properties are taken, the land bank will do whatever is necessary to get them ready for sale so they can be returned to the city’s tax roll. Proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase and repair other distressed properties. A quick program note: Jocelyn Gordon, the land bank’s executive director, will be on WBEN’s “Our House” program at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 12. I am sure she will be taking calls regarding her organization. You also can email her at j.gordonland bank@gmail.com. You might also want to visit the land bank’s website atwww.benlic.org.

By now it should be evident that I am a big fan of the land bank. I am proud to have supported its creation, and I look forward to working with it to improve the quality of life in Grand Island and the Tonawandas. Its success may not totally change people’s perceptions of government, but it’s a good start.

If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted via email atkevin.hardwick@erie.gov or by phone at 858-8672.