Clarke, Sanchez reach land-bank deal

Posted: December 06, 2013

PHILADELPHIA may get a land bank for Christmas after all.

City Council sources told the Daily News that a deal was reached last night between Council president Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez that would resolve the dispute over the highly contested bill, which would make Philadelphia the largest U.S. city to have a land bank.

If approved, a land bank would have the power to procure tax-delinquent properties through a sheriff's sale.

Clarke and Sanchez - the bill's main proponent - had to reach an agreement by today for the measure to pass by Christmas, as Clarke once promised.

But the most glaring sticking point has been whether the city would implement a Vacant Property Review Committee, essentially a Council-oversight board, which Sanchez says only adds more red tape to the acquisition and disposition of properties.

Clarke has said he wants Council members to have more say on which vacant properties are acquired and sold in their districts, while Sanchez seeks transparency to streamline the process.

"The Council president and I are committing to working on a resolution for [today]," Sanchez said when reached via email yesterday.

"The details have not been totally worked out. I am very happy that president Clarke and I agree that the legislation is only the beginning of the process and look forward to completing this bill by the end of the year."

Proponents of the bill argue that if it does not pass this month, it will become ensnarled in budget hearings and other Council prerogatives next year.

Although details of the amendments have yet to be finalized, sources say that the VPRC provision will remain in the bill but that land sales would not require Council approval.

A land bank would utilize the approximately 40,000 idle and abandoned properties strewn across Philadelphia, thousands of which are city-owned.

In a news release last night, Clarke wrote, "The opportunity to consolidate land under single ownership will certainly provide a better customer-service experience for applicants."


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