Explaining the borough's need to pony up the funds, Murphy said, “Lancaster County Commissioners created this [the Land Bank], but there is no funding mechanism for it at the moment.” The funding will require an extra line item on the 2017 budget, according to Murphy.
Murphy said representatives from the borough and the school board met with the Land Bank and targeted 18 properties, with an initial two, that could benefit from the program. All parties agreed that $100,000 is a suitable figure to get started in 2017. Murphy said that smaller, more manageable projects, which he termed "low-hanging fruit," will be undertaken first.
The Land Bank has a variety of options for a targeted property, including buying and reselling it to a contractor immediately, or hiring a contractor to complete renovations and then sell the property. The borough will control all terms of the transactions. After a property is rehabilitated and returned to the tax rolls, the land bank will get half the taxes collected in the first five years. One stipulation is that the properties must be sold as single family dwellings.
At the finance meeting, resident Sharon Lintner asked “Is that [$100,000] used to purchase, or to purchase and fix up?” Murphy replied that it was to purchase. Lintner cited the $5,000 fee to join and the $1,000 annual membership fee, but questioned the amount of additional funding. “I didn’t know about the $100,000, and that’s why I questioned you. I didn’t know.”
Resident Frank Doutrich said, “I didn't hear anything when this was presented - that we were going to be buying properties. My feeling was it was going to be the Land Bank doing all the buying.”
Murphy replied, “They are, but we're giving them, for lack of a better term, $100,000 seed money. They have no funding.”
Doutrich replied, “I never heard nothing about that, and I sit and I listen pretty good.”
Murphy said, “It’s like we’re gifting them $100,000 to start purchasing these projects to get them rehabbed on behalf of Columbia Borough. They’re just like another legislative body.”
Doutrich then asked what would happen if the Land Bank runs out of money. Murphy replied that they could ask the borough for more.
Mayor Leo Lutz said, "We aren’t giving anybody a dollar. We're putting that money in the budget. At some point and time we could say we want out of this - give us our money back," Lutz said.
The committee voted to take the matter to February's council meeting.