Sorry if this will bore Fishtown people since there's not much land to be land-banked. It's however a gigantic issue that will affect Kensington.
I've noticed the chatter about land banking has come up again. I've held some serious reservations about it since the idea sprang up early last year. Has anybody attended anything or read anything about the proposed land bank idea that addresses this stuff?
- How are the boards for the land banks going to be selected and the people who sit on them vetted? Let's say I am a crooked developer who is in and out of court for code enforcement issues on a weekly basis. How do you keep someone like me from negatively impacting neighbors?
- How are land banks going to get rid of property squatters: the investors who do nothing but buy up lots, don't develop them, don't pay any revenue to the City of Philadelphia and sit on them for years hoping to hit the jackpot one day, all the while not cleaning trash that accumulates on the lot or maintaining security of the lot? If an investor, not a developer, approaches a land bank to purchase a lot, how will the land bank trustees know if the buyer doesn't intend to do any improvements to the lot being purchased?
- What's happened to the Side Lot program that was created under Mayor Goode? The old factsheet for it has virtually disappeared from phila.gov; is that basically dead now? Is your only hope of annexing attached lots is to use the Sheriff Sale process?
- How do you keep the land banks from being politicized? If a buyer don't donate money to so-and-so's campaign fund, will that make that person's quest to acquire the lot more difficult? At the present time, nobody develops anything larger than 1/4 of a city block without sexing up their council member. Is that going to continue to be the case because I've seen nothing from PCPC, PlanPhilly or presentations at various civics that tells me that land use, zoning and property acquisition isn't going to be anything other than palm-greasing like it's been since Noah built the Ark.
- When will there be more community meetings actually held in the area that will be most affected by land banks... namely Kensington, where residents of all ages and backgrounds can ask questions about this? Property issues affect the world around us more than anything, and it has direct influence on schools, crime, trash on our streets, safety... you name it. Why do I get the feeling that we're being left out of the discussions going on in Harrisburg and in Center City about it?
These questions need honest answers and if we can't get them, then I think Kensington---which stands to lose the MOST here, should start a campaign to thwart the creation of land banks in our area.