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Land bank explained to local leaders

February 18, 2016
By Nicole Gugino ( , Westfield Republican

BROCTON - The cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown have benefited greatly from the Chautauqua County Land Bank's programs to eliminate blight properties, but few outlying municipalities have experienced the same.

Land Bank Administra-tive Director Gina Paradis attended the recent Chad-wick Bay Regional Develop-ment Agency meeting to explain to local leaders what the land bank has to offer.

She explained the creation of the land bank was community driven and named as a solution to blight in the county's 20/20 plan. It was one of the first five in the state and received $1.56 million in 2014 for demolition.

Article Photos

Photo by Nicole Gugino
Chautauqua County Land Bank Administrative Director Gina Paradis (right) explains land bank programs to local leaders at the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation meeting. Also pictured from left are Portland Supervisor Dan Schrantz and Chadwick Bay Executive Director Pat Stokes.

One million dollars of those funds was used for demolition of residential properties with 50 percent set aside for Jamestown, 25 percent for Dunkirk and 25 percent for the rest of the towns and villages.

"We chose that model due to the glut of blight in Jamestown," Paradis said, noting that Community Development Block Grants have been used in Jamestown and Dunkirk to leverage money further.

In 2015, the land bank received $1 million and decided to dedicate half of that to mixed-use properties.

"That has extended our reach to quasi-commercial properties on main streets," she said.

This has notably helped Westfield demolish the Portage Inn and the land bank has been in contact with the village of Brocton about its Main Street blight property. Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo jokingly offered Paradis the old Main Street school in the village, but she refused.

"Every community is facing (blight)," Brocton Ma-yor Dave Hazelton said.

The land bank does demolitions as well as renovations for sale, but Paradis explained for a property to become a land bank property it must be municipal-owned. She said this can happen through tax foreclosure, but there are other ways municipalities can take ownership of a property.

"Outside of cities you don't have a lot of property that is in municipal control. Here are a variety of ways to do that. Code enforcement push to take down a building or the owners can donate it. But you need to know how much there are on back bills," she said.

Paradis explained that, while the land bank is run with a sustainable model, funding for demolitions have not been renewed, so municipalities need to act this year.

"Without (Office of the Attorney General) funds, our volume of demolitions will shrink dramatically. OAG funds have allowed us to take care of a glut of properties right now. It needs to be spent this year," she said of the $1 million.

She said things that have helped with blight include the county moving to two-year tax foreclosure and the municipal tipping fee program which gives municipalities credits for the land fill. In addition she said the New York State Land Bank Association is working on ways to make demolition more affordable in the state, noting that it costs three times more in New York than in Pennsylvania.

Local leaders also asked about setting up a regional revolving loan fund to help municipalities with the matching funds required for grants and finding grants.

Paradis said the land bank may be able to help locate grants, but is not in a position to be able to administer a revolving loan fund.

"This was very informative," Dunkirk Town Supervisor Richard Purol said.



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