Matthew Sternberg, executive director of Lancaster County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities, addressed a joint meeting of Columbia Borough Council and Columbia Borough School Board Tuesday night about the land bank. [File photo]
Columbia Borough Council and the Columbia Borough School Board voted to join forces with the Lancaster County Land Bank at a joint meeting Tuesday night. Columbia will be the first municipality in the county to do so. The land bank provides a means for remediation of blighted, vacant, and abandoned properties in the borough.
The agreement will not be binding until the land bank authority approves it and the ordinance is advertised. According to Matthew Sternberg, executive director of Lancaster County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities, the land bank authority plans to do so at its December 20 meeting. The ordinance authorizes execution of the inter-governmental cooperation agreement. Sternberg was present at Tuesday's meeting and presented information about the land bank.
The land bank does not have eminent domain powers (as a redevelopment authority does), but it can assemble funding for blight remediation and site upgrades, and can acquire, develop, demolish, or otherwise dispose of real property. A land bank also has the ability to buy a property prior to a tax sale to properly revitalize it and can even extinguish outstanding liens. The objective of the land bank process is to rehabilitate a property and get it back on the tax rolls at a much higher level. According to Sternberg, the land bank is hoping to have properties redeveloped for single-family use.
The land bank can hold a property tax-free during redevelopment. For the first five years after redevelopment, tax revenue will be split 50/50 between the land bank - and the borough and school board. After the five years are up, all tax revenue will go to the borough and board.
Joining the land bank requires an initial fee of $5,000, and $1,000 a year thereafter. The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authorities will staff the land bank. The borough will recommend qualified properties, and the land bank will then follow through with acquisition. Since the land bank does not have the power of eminent domain, a property owner will have rights to a negotiated sale. Developers will be selected by the land bank and could include private citizens. A property must be approved by the borough and the school board before it is permitted into the land bank.