Danville City Council poised to create land bank to help revitalize city

Vote scheduled to happen at Tuesday City Council meeting

DANVILLE, Va. – Through a land bank program, the city's neighborhood development corporation will purchase or otherwise acquire rundown properties and vacant lots and in so doing eliminate any liens on the property.

The hope is, that will encourage developers to come in and rehab or develop the properties.

A vote is on the agenda for next week's City Council meeting.

Empty lots like the ones in the 500 block of Cabell Street are some of the roughly 200 properties the city already owns that could become part of a land bank.

Danville Vice Mayor Lee Vogler is excited.

He started working with lawmakers in Richmond in 2015 to get legislation passed to allow land banks in Virginia.

The legislation passed in 2016 and ever since the city has been working to get a land bank started.

Without the land bank, the legal process to purchase a property from the city and develop it is so intensive that realistically, he said, the properties would never get developed.

"This is going to be a great thing for Danville. It will help rebuild a lot of our neighborhoods, make stronger neighborhoods, safer neighborhoods, and ultimately save taxpayers money," Vogler said.

When a property is purchased by a developer, the city no longer has to pay to take care of it, saving taxpayers money.

"Just to demolish a house is averaging about $11,000 a house. The maintenance is probably a few thousand dollars."

With the liens eliminated from the property, the city won't be able to recoup that money, but Vogler isn't worried.

"We view the fact that, if we can get someone to buy it and invest the money to fix the property back up, which is going to help the tax values of that entire street -- which, again, will be more tax revenue coming back to the city -- we look at it as a net plus," Vogler said.

Once the land bank is up and running, Neighborhood Development Corporation director Ernecia Coles said, developers will be able to purchase the properties.

The neighborhood development corporation will determine the price for each property.

"It will be based on market value," Coles said.

Some properties, however, will be available for adoption as well.

"Let's say there's a nonprofit organization that wants to set up a community garden. They could adopt it at no charge," Coles explained.

The neighborhood development corporation will get $250,000 from the city's general fund this fiscal year, as well as money from local nonprofits, to purchase properties other than what the city already owns.

"We're looking forward to working with the city on establishing a land bank here in Danville because it is a proven revitalization tool in cities across the country," Coles said.

She hopes to have the land bank up and running by the summer or fall.

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