New Land Bank Faces Hurdles To Success

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Philadelphia is on track to become the largest city in the nation with a Land Bank. However, the bank’s central mission of connecting developers with abandoned properties may now be complicated by the very bill establishing this institution.

 

In a deal reached just days before adjourning for the year, City Council is now set to pass a landmark bill creating a single authority to manage the sale of Philadelphia’s abandoned properties. That process has become far more complicated however thanks to the recent actions of Council President Darrell Clarke.

 

Arguing that the unelected members of the Land Bank would have an unaccountable influence over major development decisions, Clarke has fought for months to expand Council’s say over the Bank’s management. Clarke even went so far as to introduce an amendment to the Bank bill that would add the extra step of City Council approval over all Land Bank deals, effectively giving the Council veto power.

 

A Daily News cartoon skewering Council President Clarke's attempt to add the step of Council approval to Land Bank deals. (Image via Philadelphia Daily News).
A Daily News cartoon skewering Council President Clarke’s attempt to add the step of Council approval to Land Bank deals. (Image via Philadelphia Daily News).

 

Clarke’s original demands were however watered down through negotiations. His new amendments, which now require the Land Bank to receive Council approval for its annual development plans and budget, were successfully added to the final bill on December 5th.

 

Interestingly, the controversy swirling around Clarke’s amendments demonstrate the wide popularity that the Land Bank enjoys throughout the city’s many interest groups. Organizations as diverse as private developers, neighborhood associations and non-profits see the Bank as a critical new means of redeveloping the estimated 40,000+ abandoned properties that dot the city and the blight many of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

 

With so much raw potential for good then, we at Solo feel it would be foolish to inject any extra interference into the management of the Land Bank. Council President Clarke’s amendments would do just that though, making an institution designed to streamline the redevelopment process slower, more complicated and more bureaucratic. This could do irreparable harm to this promising new institution.

 

Let’s then encourage our leaders to give the Land Bank the independence it needs to fully realize its mission of rejuvenating forgotten spaces and encouraging economic growth throughout the city of Philadelphia.

 

UPDATE: On December 16th, City Council approved the Land Bank bill. Mayor Nutter has vowed to sign it into law soon.