A battle is brewing between some members of the Syracuse Common Council and Mayor Stephanie Miner over the city's land bank.
S ince it was established last year , the land bank, a taxpayer supported corporation, has acquired 340 properties mainly through tax seizures. The land bank intends to sell the properties to responsible owners who would fix them up and pay the taxes. Mayor Miner's Chief of Staff Bill Ryan told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "We had people who have not paid their taxes in 12 years and got away with it. We are changing that dynamic via the land bank."
But Syracuse City Councilor Kathleen Joy wants to slow down the influx of properties being taken over by the land bank. "If you're going to create a monster then you have to feed it. Let's not let it get out of hand." Joy says
The councilor has proposed a law that would reverse a decision by Mayor Miner in April to restrict "tax trusts" to owner/occupied properties and not absentee landlords. "I don't want the city to be a tax seizure city. We want properties on the tax roll to give people an opportunity to come current." Joy said.
If other councilors go along with Joy's proposal, they would be on a collision course with the Miner administration which sees the land bank as the best way to put properties back on the tax rolls. According to Bill Ryan, "It's been a model. The Attorney General has applauded our work. We're going to continue to move in that direction."
But Joy sees the land bank differently. "We thought the land bank was another tool to get tax revenue to take care of the abandoned and tax delinquent properties but not the be all and end all... not to privatize what municipalities should be doing."
On Wednesday, councilors agreed to meet next month on a $1.5 million request to fund the land bank. Councilor Joy sees it as an opportunity to focus on the city's role in the real estate business.