Stories indexed with the term ‘foreclosures’

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 … [Full Story]

Washtenaw County Treasurer Updates Board

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Feb. 16, 2011): The county board’s four-hour meeting on Wednesday evening was punctuated by a heated debate about whether some of their meetings are sufficiently in the public eye.

Bill Reynolds, Catherine McClary

Washtenaw County treasurer Catherine McClary, right, talks with deputy county administrator Bill Reynolds before the start of the Feb. 16, 2011 board of commissioners meeting. McClary delivered her annual treasurer's report during the meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Ronnie Peterson started that debate by advocating for holding the board’s budget retreats and administrative briefings at the boardroom table, where they can be televised. The meetings are open to the public, but are more informal and not available on Community Television Network or online webcasts. The ensuing discussion revealed different perspectives on what kind of environments are most conducive to deliberations. At one point, board chair Conan Smith – who opposed a change of venue – argued that deliberations aren’t subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act. The county’s attorney, Curtis Hedger, advised the board that, in fact, deliberations do need to occur in open meetings, with limited exceptions allowed in closed sessions.

After roughly 90 minutes of debate, the board voted – with Smith dissenting – to hold future budget retreats in the boardroom following their bi-weekly working sessions. The retreats will be televised. An effort to relocate and televise administrative briefings failed, however, with support only from Peterson, Kristin Judge and Wes Prater.

In other business, the board appointed three staff members to a review committee that’s part of a new coordinated effort for funding human services nonprofits in the county. During a presentation by Mary Jo Callan – head of the office of community development, which is overseeing this process – Peterson expressed concern that smaller, community-based nonprofits will be unable to compete in this new system. Callan assured him that she understood his concerns, but felt that this new model could actually be better for those nonprofits. She noted that the board would ultimately control funding decisions for county dollars.

Catherine McClary, the county treasurer, delivered her annual treasurer’s report, giving an update on the county’s investment portfolio, delinquent taxes and foreclosures. She reported that the amount of residential tax foreclosures appears to be stabilizing, but foreclosures of commercial property are on the rise, especially for parcels of vacant, undeveloped land. Separately, the board approved the treasurer’s annual request to borrow funds – up to $50 million this year – to temporarily cover delinquent taxes in the county’s 80 taxing jurisdictions. Last year, there was about $29 million in delinquent taxes, and McClary expects a small increase this year.

McClary also told commissioners that later this year she’ll be asking them to approve a civil infractions ordinance for dog licenses, as part of a stepped-up enforcement effort. Right now, not having a license is a criminal misdemeanor of 90 days in jail or a $500 fine.

During Wednesday’s meeting commissioners also delivered several liaison reports, including news that the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission had approved $600,000 for the Connecting Communities trail program. Part of those funds will support a project that will eventually link Saline and Ann Arbor through a non-motorized pathway. The commission also authorized $250,000 to build a boathouse and fishing dock at Ford Lake, in partnership with the state and Eastern Michigan University. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Land Bank Debate Continues

On a summer cycle of once-a-month meetings, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners were briefed last week about the agenda for their July 7 meeting. Much of the briefing was spent discussing an item that likely won’t be up for a vote – resurrecting the county’s land bank.

The board dissolved the land bank – a tool used to help the county deal with foreclosed and blighted properties – at their March 2010 meeting, but commissioner Ronnie Peterson has pushed to bring it back. He initially proposed putting a resolution on the June meeting agenda, but later agreed to a request by board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr. to hold off until July. But at the June 29 briefing, Sizemore and Conan Smith, who chairs the board’s Ways & Means Committee, said they were not putting a resolution on the July 7 agenda either, though discussion on the topic is scheduled for the meeting. Peterson did not attend the briefing.

A range of other items are on the agenda, including a public hearing on possible expansion of the county road commission, and a resolution regarding a transparency initiative that’s been in the works for several months. Led by commissioner Kristin Judge, the effort aims to put more of the county’s public documents, especially financial information, online.

Commissioners expressed some concern over one agenda item: Restructuring the debt for a Dexter Township wastewater system, with the goal of lowering payments – payments the township might otherwise have trouble making. The item led some commissioners to ask for a report on debt held by local townships that’s backed by the county’s credit. [Full Story]

County Board to Vote on Folding Land Bank

Less than a year after the county authorized the formation of a land bank, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners will consider dissolving the entity at its March 17 meeting.

At their administrative briefing on Wednesday, commissioners discussed the move with county treasurer Catherine McClary, who also attended the meeting. McClary had originally proposed the land bank as a mechanism allowing the county to take temporary ownership of tax- or mortgage-foreclosed land. The intent would be to give the county options for dealing with blighted property, other than selling it off at auction.

But anticipated federal funding didn’t come through, and a dispute among some commissioners about who would serve on the land bank authority board stalled the project. “It’s fair to say that the county was not sold on it,” McClary said at Wednesday’s meeting. [Full Story]

It’s All About The Money

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (March 4, 2009): County commissioners spent the bulk of their Wednesday night board meeting on two topics, both dealing with finances: 1) Details about $3 million in federal funds coming to Washtenaw County to rehab or demolish foreclosed properties in targeted areas, and 2) an update from county administrator Bob Guenzel about ongoing efforts to deal with a projected budget deficit.

Neither topic is new to commissioners or Chronicle readers: The federal foreclosure funds were discussed at last week’s administrative briefing, and the budget crisis has been on the table since the board’s Feb. 4 meeting. So commissioners were prepared to ask pointed questions on both issues, and they did. [Full Story]

County, City Get Funds for Foreclosure Rehab

Administrative briefing, County Board of Commissioners (Feb. 25, 2009): Washtenaw County is receiving a $3 million federal grant to buy and rehab foreclosed homes, destroy blighted buildings and redevelop demolished or vacant buildings. The funds would be used in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Superior Township, which are areas designated as high priorities by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). Separately, the city of Ann Arbor was awarded $850,000 under the same program.

News of the county grant came during an informal administrative briefing for county commissioners on Wednesday, a gathering that also featured an exploding pen and a word that one commissioner described as sounding like a sexually transmitted disease. [Full Story]

County Board: Plan For Worst, Hope For Best

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (Feb. 18, 2009): Commissioners got another cold blast of economic reality at their most recent board meeting, as county staff laid out revenue projections for 2010-11 and asked for feedback about how cautious they should be in planning for the future. Pretty darn cautious was the general consensus among commissioners, saying it would be easier to deal with the budget if their projections proved too pessimistic than if they planned for higher revenue that never materialized.

County administrator Bob Guenzel and his staff also presented various scenarios for increasing revenues, as points of discussion, not recommendations. Those included a couple of options to raise or reapportion taxes that would require voter approval and appeared to have little traction among commissioners at this point. [Full Story]