One Of A Kind

DUNKIRK – The Chautauqua County Land Bank recently welcomed new homeowner Todd Donato to his newly renovated home on Eagle Street in Dunkirk. County Executive Vince Horrigan and several county and local officials joined in the celebration to congratulate the new homeowner, the land bank and ROM Properties Inc. on the completion of the project.

The Eagle Street property was acquired by the land bank in 2013 from the Chautauqua County Legislature through the tax foreclosure process. Neighbors had voiced concern about the condition of the property, which had fallen into disrepair, had a leaking roof, and was generally a blighted influence on the neighborhood. The property slowly deteriorated, leaving the neighbors anxious about the blight in their otherwise well-kept neighborhood.

Once the land bank acquired the vacant home, it was marketed through its “Negotiated Sale/Rehab” Program to insure a targeted reinvestment in the property and a renovation which would enhance the neighborhood.

“One of the goals of the Negotiated Sale/Rehab Program is to stabilize neighborhoods by targeting the worst homes in otherwise nice neighborhoods and bringing them up to standards consistent or better than the neighboring properties,” said Mark Geise, executive director. “Through a formal process, our disposition committee selects buyers who have the interest and wherewithal to breathe life back into a properties and neighborhoods.”

“Declining properties have a significant negative impact on their neighbors’ property values, oftentimes resulting in additional disinvestment and deterioration of the block,” said Gina Paradis, administrative director. “Targeted reinvestment can effectively stem the tide of decline and rejuvenate a neighborhood.”

The land bank sells properties in this program for approximately 60 percent of the appraised value, allowing the developer or buyer room for reinvestment and equity building.

“The Eagle Street property is one example of the positive impacts that the Land Bank programs are making in the county,” Horrigan said. “I am thrilled to see the new homeowner settled in and to hear the positive feedback from neighbors.”

The Chautauqua County Land Bank was created based on community input during the development of the Chautauqua 20/20 Comprehensive Plan regarding housing issues and needs. It was seeded with funding allocated by the county legislature from the Housing Trust Fund in 2011, and was designated under state authority in 2012. The Eagle Street property is one of seven properties that the land bank has currently in the Negotiated Sale/Rehab Program, and 18 more properties from across the county will be added to the program this year.

With the award of a $1.5 million grant from the NYS Office of Attorney General this spring, the CCLBC will also be assisting Jamestown, Dunkirk and the rural municipalities with demolition of abandoned or condemned homes, removing additional blight from the communities. The funding also provided for the addition of an administrative director to oversee the land bank’s operations, and funds for marketing of properties, acquisition of bank-foreclosed properties, and transfer of side-lots to neighbors after demolitions occur.

“The land bank was established to provide an alternative to the challenges inherent in the traditional tax foreclosure and auction process with regards to neighborhood stabilization. At auction, there are no guarantees what will happen to a piece of property. The land bank provides assurances that there will be reinvestment in the property, and that the property will positively impact the neighborhood, the tax roles, and the community,” Geise said.

Additional information on the Chautauqua County Land Bank and its programs may be found under the “PlanningChautauqua” website at www.planningchautauqua.com.