Leadership is now in place for a Niagara-Orleans inter-municipal organization that would buy and rehabilitate abandoned or neglected properties for resale.
Earlier this year, the cities of Niagara Falls, Lockport, North Tonawanda, and the counties of Niagara and Orleans, signed on to join one of 25 “land banks” in the state. The entity offers municipalities the ability to purchase structures or parcels in the process of foreclosure before they become derelict or otherwise unsalvageable. Officials in the land bank then decide whether to contract laborers or order in-house rehabilitation of property before it is again offered up for sale.
The leadership of the land bank has been appointed. The officers are:
• Andrea Klyczek, president. Klyczek is the director of marketing for the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.
• Amy Fisk, treasurer. Fisk is Niagara County's senior planner.
• Thomas DeSantis, secretary. DeSantis is the City of Niagara Falls' senior planner.
• Heather Peck, recording secretary. Peck is vice president of Greater Lockport Development Corporation.
Land bank board members are:
• Richard Updegrove, chairman. Updegrove is Niagara County manager.
• Brian Smith, vice chairman. Smith is president of Greater Lockport Development Corporation.
• Kyle Andrews, member. Andrews is the Niagara County treasurer.
• Sam Ferraro, member. Ferraro is Niagara County's commissioner of economic development.
• E. John DeFilipps, member. DeFilipps is chairman of the Orleans County Legislature.
• Robert DePaolo, member. DePaolo is the City of North Tonawanda's code enforcement officer.
Klyczek previously described the land bank as a mechanism for disrupting a pattern of “absentee or out-of-town landlords” repeatedly purchasing decaying properties on tax foreclosure auction blocks.
“This process would enable us to combat neighborhood blight perpetuated by deteriorating and abandoned homes,” she said.
Land banks also allow counties to transfer properties with potential environmental concerns without liability, to get them remediated and returned to municipal tax rolls. These properties are not included in county tax foreclosure sales because of liability concerns.
Funding for land banks is sourced from the state Attorney General’s Office, which doled out $20.9 million in competitive grants to 19 applicants earlier this year. The budget line was established by the AG’s office in 2013 with bank settlements collected in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. State law presently caps the number of allowable land banks at 25.