Community Investment

The number of dilapidated buildings and condemned homes in Chautauqua County will lessen in the coming months.

It was announced Tuesday by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office that $1.5 million has been awarded to the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation.

CCLBC’s award is a portion of $20 million set aside by New York state in 2012 after the U.S. attorney general’s office reached a $25 billion settlement with five of the nation’s top mortgage servicers in the wake of the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

The local share amount includes $1 million for demolition of 80 structures between Jamestown, Dunkirk and other municipalities in the county. CCLBC is one of seven land banks in the state and was created last summer “to minimize the negative impacts that substandard properties and structures have on communities, thereby stabilizing neighborhoods and Main Streets alike,” according to its website.

Mark Geise, executive director of the nonprofit and deputy director for the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development’s planning division, explained the future of the organization and its goals.

“We want to get the ball rolling on a lot of these, almost immediately, now that we have the resources to build this entity,” Geise said, in terms of plans and projects.

Geise added that $300,000 has been designated for the hire of an administrator.

“Right now the land bank’s activities are primarily run by a number of county employees who sort of pare off a part of their week to focus on land bank activities,” said Peter Lombardi, deputy director for the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and chairman for the CCLBC in a phone interview Tuesday.

He added, “This will allow for an administrator who will be solely focused on running the land bank and maximizing the efficiency of the different programs we have.”

“The goal has been to get to a point where the land bank produces enough revenue to support its activities.” Lombardi said. “Through the selling of properties to developers and homeowners, we (want to) bring in enough revenue to help pay for strategic demolitions, transfers to new owners and administration.”

Both Geise and Lombardi explained the land bank’s desire to partner with municipalities in Chautauqua County through a combination of landfill credits and shared services.

“It will have a detrimental effect on investment in those communities,” Lombardi said.

“I think when you look at the hard work that went in, there was always a method to that madness,” Bill Daly, director for the planning division of the Department of Planning and Economic Development, said of Geise and members of the CCLBC. “Because of the work done in this department, it brought back $1.5 million.”