“We sent out notices for interest in this program to school districts and the municipalities, as we need all the taxing entities to agree,” said Moyer. Mount Pocono Borough and the Pocono Mountain School District came back in agreement to try the Land Bank ordinance.
“When I became mayor a year ago, blighted properties and how to deal with them was one of my top priorities,” said Michael Penn, Mayor of Mount Pocono Borough. “It so happened that the county was discussing this Land Bank ordinance.”
Signing on to the Land Bank meant that the borough and the school district would be willing to give up some property taxes for these blighted properties in exchange for returning them back to the tax rolls said Penn.
“As they stand, these blighted properties are usually abandoned, falling down, vacant and taxes aren’t being paid anyway,” said Penn. “There are really two goals of this Land Bank, which is to return these properties back to paying taxes and reduce absentee landlords.”
The Land Bank and the borough work to identify properties that would be considered for this program. After properties are identified, the Land Bank would then have first rights to purchase through a judicial sale. After which, they would renovate or rehabilitate into whatever best use to sell and return to tax role said Penn.
“And for this, we the taxing entities, County, Municipal and School give up 50% of the total real estate taxes collected in the first five years,” said Penn. “It helps to cut and reduce the pattern of private investors that purchase cheap property or land blindly without realizing the necessary work involved after the fact.”
The mayor explained that this Land Bank is a tool and not necessarily a solution to all the blighted properties in Mount Pocono. “We deal with things beyond 6-foot high grass and shrub growth, we also deal with people breaking into abandoned homes to do drugs and make meth,” Penn said. “We deal with squatters, and setting fires among the many dangerous activities that go on in vacant homes.”
“We are trying to rehabilitate the borough in general and bringing businesses to our downtown and increasing property values for the people in the borough,” said Penn. “The Land Bank has the potential to help us achieve this.”
“We hear complaints all the time of declining home values and derelict properties, it pulls down the land values of neighboring houses and businesses,” said Moyer. “This isn’t a county problem, it’s not the school district’s problem, it’s not a municipal problem either, it’s a problem of all three entities to fix together.”
Moyer said the county is starting with Mount Pocono Borough and hopes that other municipalities will sign on after seeing the value in the Land Bank Ordinance.