Delaware County officials and stakeholders have worked for months developing policies and procedures around the rollout of its new land bank. Their work is now complete.
The Delaware County Redevelopment Authority, which will manage the land bank, has released its proposed guidelines and requests feedback from the public. Comments can be submitted by filling out the online form.
Winnie Branton, the principal of consulting firm Branton Strategies, worked with the county to develop the land bank. She says the policies focus on the acquisition of property, the discharge of liabilities and cleaning up titles, and disposition.
Branton, who also serves as the senior advisor to the Pennsylvania Land Bank Network, said the county looked at other land banks across the state to see what works and what doesn’t.
“A new land bank doesn’t have to start from scratch. They can learn from other land banks, and that has really worked well,” Branton said.
The deadline to provide the DCRDA with feedback is May 5. The authority will then review the comments it solicited and make the changes. Once the DCRDA adopts a formal policy, the county agency hopes to bring the land bank online within a few months — only after it negotiates with local governments.
“We need to have agreements in place with the municipalities that we’re going to be operating in here because we will be taking properties with tax liens and other delinquent payments into the land bank and part of the process for the land bank is extinguishing those,” said Matt Sullivan, chair of the redevelopment authority.
Where the land bank focuses its attention will be informed by those cooperation agreements.
“The communities that we start operating in first will be the ones where we get agreements in place with those municipalities in terms of who’s first in line,” Sullivan said.
The goal of the land bank is to combat blight by turning vacant, tax-delinquent properties into opportunities for housing, commercial development, and green space.
Branton said the retooling of its policies and procedures will happen continuously as the land bank evolves.
Branton stressed that land banks are just one tool to combat blight. She said it’s important for people to understand the goals of the land bank, so that they can be active participants in fighting blight and restoring their neighborhoods.
“There’ll be that partnership with local communities to see what it is that you see for some of these properties that have been long vacant and abandoned and tax delinquent — so trying to envision what that looks like and working with the land bank, community groups, and residents to figure out how the land bank will continue to operate and benefit the residents of Delaware County,” Branton said.
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