Zombie Property & Land Bank Workshop Draws Crowd

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Zombie Property & Land Bank Workshop Draws Crowd

On November 17, 2016, Posted by , In Blog,News, With No Comments

On November 10, over 50 local leaders, code enforcement officials, planning and zoning board members, builders, realtors and more attended a Zombie Property & Land Bank Workshop hosted by Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Development, Schoharie County Planning & Development, Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce, Mohawk Valley Economic Development District (MVEDD), Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful (KMVB) and the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank (GMVLB). The goal of the workshop was to highlight different methods of, and funding sources that are available for, handling zombie properties and blighted buildings that have fallen into disrepair in our county.

The first presenter, Mark Domenico, Chief Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Rome, shared information about the current structure of the city’s Vacant Property Survey and Inventory and its future structure, which will include the newly formed GMVLB. The City of Rome has utilized a Real Property Committee including staff from the Mayor’s Office, Code and Treasurer’s Departments and a citizen appointed by the Mayor. For the full City of Rome Zombie Presentation click here.

“The City of Rome has a well-developed housing and code enforcement court system that is increasingly working through a backlog of problem properties,” reported Mr. Domenico. In contrast to the traditional tax foreclosure auction used in Schoharie County – and other rural counties – the Real Property Committee oversees a closed sealed bid process, with foreclosed properties going to the most qualified bidders. The City has also established consequences, including fines, for those bidders acquiring foreclosed properties that do not meet the conditions of their purchase agreements.  

Mr. Domenico also spoke about the new NYS Zombie Law, also known as the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act of 2016. Financial institutions are now required by law to inspect foreclosed properties in their possession and report data to the Attorney General’s office. Local municipalities may request information about bank-foreclosed properties in their jurisdictions by contacting the NYS Department of Financial Services. A “zombie property” is considered vacant or abandoned when:

  1. At least three monthly payments are past due on the mortgage loan or the mortgagor has informed the mortgagee in writing that s/he does not intend to occupy the property in the future.

  2. There is a reasonable basis to believe the property is not occupied. This belief is based on two or more inspections of the property at least 30 days apart wherein evidence of abandonment is present.

A release issued by Governor Cuomo’s office on June 23, 2016 stated, “The legislation includes measures to assist homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure, improve the efficiency and integrity of the mandatory settlement conferences, establish a pre-foreclosure duty to maintain on mortgagees, create an expedited foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned properties, create an electronic vacant property registry, and establish a Consumer Bill of Rights.”

Tolga Morawski, Acting Executive Director of the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, was the final presenter. During his presentation (available by clicking here), Mr. Morawski highlighted the efforts of the Mohawk Valley Collective (MVC), a group that works to rehabilitate, stabilize, and demolish blighted properties in Montgomery County. MVC’s work was featured as a case study of how the GMVLB can provide alternative solutions to the traditional property tax auctions.

While development has been ongoing for the past few years, the establishment of the GMVLB was recently formalized. A release issued by MVEDD on November 16, 2016 stated:

“The Empire State Development Corporation has approved the application for a multi-county land bank submitted by the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District.

Land banks are independent not-for-profit corporations created to redevelop vacant, abandoned, or tax delinquent properties that have a negative effect on their communities. The primary focus of land bank operations is the acquisition of real property and to use the tools of the program to eliminate the harms and liabilities caused by these blighted properties. The New York State Land Bank Act does not permit a land bank to exercise eminent domain.

The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank currently covers the counties of Herkimer, Montgomery, Otsego, and Schoharie, as well as the cities of Rome and Utica and is one of seven new land banks certified in the last year, bringing the total number of land banks to nineteen out of a possible twenty in the State.”

Read the full release by clicking here.

For more information about land banks and the GMVLB visit this MVEDD link. In addition, click here to download a publication about New York State Land Banks: Combating Blight and Vacancy in New York Communities.

On another note, Dan Sullivan also spoke about the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Clean Energy Communities Program, another resource for municipalities. “Local governments in New York State can use the Clean Energy Communities program to implement clean energy actions, save energy costs, create jobs, and improve the environment. In addition to providing tools, resources, and technical assistance, the program recognizes and rewards leadership for the completion of clean energy projects,” he said. Mr. Sullivan is able to provide assistance to municipalities that are interested in taking advantage of this program. More information is available here: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/cec

Locally, Schoharie County Planning & Development has been working with code enforcement officials and local leaders to collect information about vacant and blighted properties in the county and identify potential opportunities for partnership with the GMVLB. “The better Schoharie County prepares ourselves with the right data and plans for shovel-ready projects, the more funds we’ll be able to access as they are released from the Attorney General’s office and other sources,” stated Schoharie County Senior Planner Shane Nickle. “We’ll be collecting data from local officials on a continual basis. So even if a town or village hasn’t been able to submit any data yet, they may participate in future opportunities.”

“SALT Development is pleased to support these efforts by working closely with Schoharie County Planning & Development, local Towns and Villages and other stakeholders to research, educate, develop plans and seek funds for housing and community development projects throughout the county,” adds SALT Project Director and workshop organizer, Jerrine Corallo.

Special thanks to Georgia Van Dyke, the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce and Schoharie Valley Farms for providing refreshments for the workshop.

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