County to Explore Creating Land Bank

Washtenaw County commissioners have voted to form a committee that will explore the feasibility of creating a land bank. The unanimous vote took place at the board’s March 20, 2013 meeting. The resolution named three people to the committee: Commissioner Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), county treasurer Catherine McClary, and Mary Jo Callan, director of the county’s office of community & economic development. The committee is directed to report back to the board by Aug. 7, 2013.

A land bank is a mechanism for the county to take temporary ownership of tax- or mortgage-foreclosed land while working to put it back into productive use. “Productive use” could mean several things – such as selling it to a nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity to rehab, or demolishing a blighted structure and turning the land into a community garden.

The board has made attempts in the past to start a land bank, and actually formed one in the summer of 2009. But after commissioners were unable to resolve issues related to governance and funding, they voted to dissolve the land bank in March of 2010. Only three current commissioners were on the board at that time: Ronnie Peterson, Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Conan Smith.

At its Sept. 1, 2010 meeting, the board voted to revive the land bank. However, the board never took the next step of funding it or getting approval from the state.

On March 20 it was current board chair Yousef Rabhi who brought forward the land bank resolution. At the board’s Feb. 20, 2013 meeting, Rabhi had announced his interest in this effort.

For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: “Banking on a Land Bank” (July 8, 2009 board meeting); and discussions during the county board meetings on March 17, 2010, July 7, 2010 and Aug. 4, 2010.

This brief was filed from the boardroom at the county administration building, 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]