Fulton County still balks at land bank idea

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday discussed the land bank idea, but took no action.

The Mohawk Valley Economic Development District has a proposed six-county land bank plan it wants Fulton County to formally join. But so far, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors has resisted approving county involvement.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead noted Wednesday that the board didn’t even have the land bank on its agenda Monday at the county office building. But he said Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. brought it up late in the meeting, during old business. He made a motion to endorse the concept.

“It came up out of the blue,” Stead said.

A land bank is a non-profit entity that can gain access to funding for the rehabilitation or redevelopment of foreclosed property. Under the proposal, Fulton, Montgomery, Herkimer, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie counties would seek state money for the land bank, which buys foreclosed properties and makes them available for sale to developers or builders. The MVEDD doesn’t need municipal support, but encourages it. Johnstown city officials have endorsed the plan.

The MVEDD’s regional land bank concept would also include cities that have the power to foreclose on property, which in the case of the six-county region would include the cities of Johnstown, Utica and Rome.

Stead said that said the merits of a land bank were “discussed back and forth” Monday, but Lauria eventually withdrew his motion and no vote was taken.

“I think there’s mixed opinions on it,” Stead said.

He said he believes many supervisors feel a regional land bank “might not be for our community.”

Stead said while many supervisors feel a land bank can be “valuable” to an area, a regional outfit may not be “a good fit” for Fulton County.

Fulton County would get two votes on the MVEDD land bank board.

Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter, board chairman, stated Wednesday: “It seems like there’s a consensus that with the regionalization of this particular subject, there’s a concern the bigger counties may dictate what goes on in our county.”

Potter said County Attorney Jason Brott has offered to look into further details of land banks.

The MVEDD is expected to hear soon about its land bank application. If approved, the MVEDD could receive around about $150,000 to hire workers and prepare the plan. The land bank money is not taxpayer money, but settlement money from banks through the 2009 foreclosure crisis.

Seven of the nine foreclosing units have passed resolutions supporting the land bank, with Oneida and Fulton counties the only holdouts so far.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

By -