Syracuse's Common Councilors are expressing concerns about the way the Land Bank, established in 2011, is handling the 'repurposing' of tax delinquent properties, and this noontime they held a special meeting to get some answers.
"This is another tool for the city in its redevelopment," Councilor Jean Kessner told the group. "It sounds like its the only tool, and I didn't know that."
At last week's regular meeting, when 26 tax-delinquent homes were turned over to the Land Bank for $151 each, councilors said they did not realize that the program excluded sales directly from the city to a third party. Councilor Kathleen Joy says that exclusivity for the Land Bank may be costing the city revenues, and that people who are attempting to buy properties may be confused by the process.She, and other councilors say they've received calls from people who want to buy, and have been told 'don't even apply, they're earmarked for the Land Bank."
One of the homes that was transferred, on Syracuse North Side, is rented by a couple that wants to buy it. Nicole White told us today that she's called the bank, and has been trying, after the house was seized because their landlord was behind on taxes.
She says her mother will buy the house, and is hopeful that now that the Land Bank has it, it will actually happen. At today's Council meeting, indications are it could take at least another three months.
Councilors are also concerned that the changes have been made without council approval. "What you did was, you changed the policy on sale of property, without council approval," Councilor Khalid Bey said today.
Paul Driscoll, the Syracuse Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner, says the Land Bank system has brought in over $2.5 million in back taxes, and also offers guarantees that properties are actually refurbished and do pay taxes once they are sold.
Councilors were not convinced, and have asked the Corporation Counsel for rulings on whether the transfer of power out of the council for property sales is legal. They also want more readings on how much money the city may be losing by transferring the re-sale operation completely to the Land Bank.