Missouri Gov. Mike Parson came to St. Joseph on Tuesday to sign a land bank bill into law at City Hall.
House Bill 821, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Sheila Solon, will allow the city to create a public board to be in charge of acquiring properties sold in the county’s delinquent tax sale or through donations and then selling them to private owners to be redeveloped.
Parson complimented St. Joseph citizens for wanting to take a step toward ending blight in St. Joseph.
“It was an honor to be here in St. Joe today and to be able to do something like this that’s going to really help the community long term that I think will help with a lot of the buildings and the process here of building St. Joe infrastructure up,” Parson said.
The signing was attended by city leaders as well as Solon and Republican state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer.
St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray called the signing historic. He said he believes it is the first time a governor has come to St. Joseph to sign a bill.
He has been a supporter of the land bank bill and said the next step is to work with Buchanan County in order to identify properties that could be purchased.
“This will enable us to get control of blighted property,” McMurray said. “We also can use the funds that we’re going to have in the land bank, after we capitalize it, to, instead of tearing down a property, contribute toward its rehabilitation.”
A board has not yet been selected, but that process is expected to begin soon.
Parson said blighted property is an issue throughout the state and land banks could be a useful tool to reduce the problem.
“Most of the major cities, or even the small towns, you’ll see the same thing,” Parson said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for people to do a little bit more to clean their towns up a little bit, and I think that’ll be a good thing at the end of the day.”
He said infrastructure and workforce development are two major issues that he is focused on, and land banks could help with both.
The land bank likely would use money from the city’s general fund for early financing, but it could support itself through sales and taxes.
For three years after selling a property to a private owner, the land bank will be able to collect property taxes assessed against that property that are collected by the county.
St. Joseph’s land bank is expected to start off small, targeting neighborhoods in order to make an impact while building up revenue.