Deadline Now: Lucas County Land Bank
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Deadline Now: Lucas County Land Bank

Friday, May 25, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.

The Toledo area, like many older communities, has more than its share of vacant and abandoned properties. The Lucas County Land Bank was created to try to do something about this.

The Land Bank is a community improvement corporation designed to strengthen neighborhoods in Lucas County by returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use. By strategically acquiring properties, the Land Bank works to reduce blight, increase property values, promote economic development. So, how does it work? Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz is also the Land Bank's Chairman. Michael Beazley is the Land Bank's President and both men are this week's guests on "Deadline Now."

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

A few years ago, the Detroit-area Vietnam veterans got the idea of establishing a memorial park for all veterans of all wars on a vacant stretch of Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.

The problem was that nobody quite knew who owned the property – or who had the right to make decisions about its future. One set of city officials was very supportive of the veterans.

They told them they thought the park was a marvelous idea, and they would try to get them clear title to the land. The vets started cleaning up the property, chasing squatters and drug dealers away, and started raising funds for their park.

But meanwhile, other city officials told somebody else they could use the property as a parking lot during baseball and football games, completely messing up the veterans’ plans. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has straightened this mess out yet.

Meanwhile, Detroit has at least forty thousand abandoned properties that need to be demolished. The title to many of them is murky at best, and there is no good mechanism for clearing this up.

Well, the Toledo area isn’t in nearly as terrible shape. But there are far too many abandoned properties, which is what the Lucas County Re-utilization Corporation is trying to do something about.

If Detroit is the ultimate urban nightmare in this regard, there’s another Michigan city that seems to be getting it right. Flint is another older industrial town that in many ways is like a smaller version of Toledo. It was devastated by the decline of General Motors.

But it has been helped greatly by the Genesee County land bank – and its innovative treasurer, Dan Kildee. He was able to get the legislature to pass laws allowing public "land banks" to quickly gain control of delinquent property. Once it acquires something, the land bank can sell it, rent it, or demolish it. It also collects interest penalties and principal from property owners behind on their taxes,

Experts agree this has helped stem Flint’s decline – and partly as a result, Dan Kildee is a heavy favorite to be elected to Congress in November. Let’s hope Lucas County can do at least as well.