State House Reps Back Land Bank Advocates

Council's land bank bill, they say, leaves an unnecessary layer of complexity untouched.

As City Council members debated yesterday the land bank legislation voted out of committee last month, two of the state representatives who drafted the legislation that made the land bank possible have lent their voice to those of the advocates who say it needs further streamlining.

In a letter released Wednesday, state Reps. Chris Ross (R-158th District; Chester County) and John Taylor (R-177th District; River Wards) criticized the current land bank bill for not doing away with the Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC).

“The main function of a land bank is to avoid the unnecessary bureaucracy that now predominates the conversion of vacant properties,” they wrote, adding, “We are particularly concerned about the inclusion of the Vacant Property Review Committee in this process. It is an unnecessary step and one that will not allow the transparency that is required under the Act for the Land Bank Board.”

Ross and Taylor urged Council to hew to the intent of the state law and revise the land bank bill so that it creates “an efficient, understandable and transparent land bank” for the city.

Which is exactly what the coalition of community groups and vacant land activists pushing for the land bank said at their news conference Monday.

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez’s original land bank bill had removed the VPRC from the process, but an amendment added at the request of Council President Darrell Clarke restored its role. At its Tuesday teleconference, the Philadelphia Land Bank Alliance had said the councilwoman was working on further revisions to the amended bill.

Letter below: