The St. Joseph City Council passed an item to create a land bank in the city and to create an advisory committee to work with the land bank.
The land bank will be a seven-member board that will have the authority to purchase properties from the Buchanan County delinquent tax sale or to acquire properties through donations. The land bank will sell the properties in order to get them back on the tax roll and to see them redeveloped in an effort to reduce blight in St. Joseph.
In June, Gov. Mike Parson signed the St. Joseph Land Bank into law at City Hall, and while that state law is not in effect until Aug. 28, the city approved the formation of the land bank at their meeting Monday night.
Mayor Bill McMurray said the city wanted to be ready to go as soon as the state law went into effect.
“We’re ahead of the game. We have the ordinance approved now, so we will send out the letters to the individuals to be appointed,” McMurray said.
The council will vote on those appointments at their Aug. 26 meeting.
The land bank will be a political subdivision separate from the city of St. Joseph. Five of its members will be appointed by the mayor, one will be chosen by the county and one will be chosen by the Board of Education.
The council also approved a nine-member advisory committee, which will advise the City Council on in-kind contributions and funding and will act to ensure the council’s regulations and code are being followed.
Each council member will choose one person to appoint to that committee.
The land bank should eventually support itself, but city money currently used for property demolition will help to start the program off, according to Director of Planning and Community Development Clint Thompson.
“Those funds will be used to either help maintain, stabilize and secure these properties once the land bank acquires them,” Thompson said. “The individuals themselves will use financing either through conventional financing or the city can work with them to help lower the cost of rehab for these structures.”
Thompson said the land bank will be able to collect taxes paid on a sold property for the first three years after the transfer of ownership in order to raise funds for itself.
“There is an incentive for the St. Joseph Land Bank to transfer ownership as soon as possible and to have that property become a productive use within the neighborhood,” Thompson said.
Thompson called the land bank a “step in the right direction” for the improvement of the city’s appearance.
McMurray said it is exciting to finally have the program in place, but the time for work has come.
“Well, it feels great and now the monkey’s on our back,” McMurray said. “Let’s perform. We have the blighted properties, we’re going to need to get moving.