The Board of Directors of the Westmoreland County Land Bank today announced that ten municipalities have joined the land bank – an initiative targeting abandoned and tax-foreclosed properties that threaten public health and safety, lower property values and strain municipal budgets.
Ten communities, including cities, boroughs, and townships, recently entered into cooperation agreements with the Land Bank, establishing the standards by which they will participate. The communities are Jeannette, Greensburg, Latrobe, Mount Pleasant Borough and Mount Pleasant Township, Scottdale, South Greensburg, Youngwood, West Newton, and Sewickley.
Westmoreland County’s Board of Commissioners recently passed an ordinance establishing the Land Bank to work closely with local leaders, non-profit and for profit developers, conservation and recreation groups, economic development and affordable housing professionals, to acquire dilapidated properties and make them attractive again. Properties in those communities can ultimately be used as side yards, new housing or for public uses, like parks, community facilities or stormwater control. Properly clustered properties hold great potential for new commercial development.
“The Land Bank is poised to develop into a tool that will ultimately return properties to the tax rolls. It is a vehicle to address distressed properties from the Monsour Hospital to abandoned homes. I expect great things from the Land Bank,” said Commissioner Charles Anderson.
The strategy rethinks the value and potential of vacant and abandoned properties – approaching them as assets rather than a disposable commodity – with the goal of combating blight and returning investment to our neighborhoods.
According to Commissioner Ted Kopas, “The new Land Bank is the most significant tool the county has developed in some time to help redevelop communities. In addition to combating blight, the Land Bank will create opportunity for new commercial, business or residential development. This is what county government is supposed to do – help our communities grow and prosper. I have every confidence this new program is going to be an overwhelming success.”
As part of their participation, each community agreed to contribute $5,000 to offset costs associated with potential property acquisitions. All of the school districts that serve those communities are needed to participate since 50 percent of the real estate tax revenues for five years are shared with the Land Bank after properties become taxable again.
“The Land Bank provides an opportunity for communities with blighted properties to collaboratively address them. By creating a working relationship between municipalities and the Land Bank we can harness expertise and funding with strategy and vision to make these properties marketable and increase surrounding land values while ultimately generating tax dollars for our communities” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney.