City establishes land bank

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

The Leavenworth City Commission has established a land bank, which the city manager describes as an important tool for improving neighborhoods.

City commissioners voted unanimously last week to approve an ordinance to create the land bank.

City Manager Paul Kramer said the goal of having a land bank in Leavenworth is to bring blighted, vacant properties back to a functional use.

The properties acquired by the land bank can be sold through a bidding process to contractors, who can rehabilitate the blighted structures.

Land banks are permitted under Kansas law. State law states any "property acquired by the city, the county, another city or other taxing subdivision within the county may be transferred to the bank."

Kramer said the land bank will focus only on vacant properties. He said only properties in the city that are placed on a list for possible demolition will be considered for the land bank.

He said demolition has been the only remedy available to the city in the past to deal with blighted properties. But demolition can often lead to vacant parcels that are not buildable lots by today's standards.

Kramer said there could be a situation in which the land bank purchases a property. But he thinks many will be donated by people who inherited dilapidated properties they do not know what to do with. He said city officials frequently run into these type of situations.

"And the land bank is a vehicle that can accept properties," he said.

He said the process would always involve a conversation with a property owner about how best to deal with a property.

Kramer said city officials have not explored any mechanism for seizing properties. The city manager said he does not know if this would even be possible.

"That has never been the intent of this," he said.

Once the land bank has acquired a property, the city could initiate a bid process for prequalified contractors. The contractors could submit proposals which would include the purchase price.

Kramer said the transactions will be approved during public meetings. The City Commission will act as the governing board for the land bank.

The city of Basehor formed its own land bank earlier this year.

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