By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the most vexing issues facing Philadelphia is what to do with tens of thousands of vacant and abandoned properties. Mayor Michael Nutter is expected to sign off on a City Council plan that supporters believe could solve that problem.
After months of contentious negotiations, Council approved — and Mayor Nutter plans to sign — a bill that creates what’s called a Land Bank. Its goal is to streamline the process by which the city sells vacant properties — cutting the red tape so the turnaround is reduced from several years to nine months. Spearheading this was Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez.
“I think we are all committed to a 9-month schedule,” Sanchez said. “I think there can simultaneous decision making. I think the key is, how do we ensure that everybody has access to the same amount of information, so that they can make decision making in a timely basis.”
Council President Darrell Clarke and others on council insisted that the new process still include the oversight of district council members. Quinones Sanchez and other supporters feel that change would not affect the value of the Land Bank. Clarke, for his part, believes this will put more properties back on the tax rolls.
“We can see upwards of $100 million in new revenue just from real estate revenue alone,” Clarke said. “And that will allow us to reduce the tax burden on a significant number of individuals, both business and residential, in the city of Philadelphia.”
After Mayor Nutter signs it into law, supporters face an equally difficult task: getting the new system up and running.