By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – City Council is moving ahead with a new way of dealing with the tens of thousands of vacant properties in the city. The idea is called a “Land Bank,” and it arrives with a bit of controversy.

A council committee has approved the creation of a Land Bank, which would be a central clearinghouse for the acquisition and sale of vacant properties. Those lots and buildings are now handled by an alphabet soup of different agencies. The sponsor, Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, believes it will speed the process of getting these unused parcels into the hands of those who want to develop them.

“Through this process, and through this new tool, we can plan better.”

Before the vote, Ellen Kaplan of the election watchdog group Committee of 70 called for the elimination of the tradition that’s called “councilmanic perogative,” in which a single district council member can stall or derail the sale of a property.

“For too many instances, councilmanic prerogative is this city’s version of gridlock.”

Quinones Sanchez, though, says because council members are elected, they need to have oversight of how these properties are disposed.

Vacant lot on Ella St. near E Westmoreland St.

Vacant lot on Ella St. near E Westmoreland St.

“I am not one that believes that I should concede, or my colleagues should concede that power.”

The measure is likely to be amended before a final vote by the full council. Quinones Sanchez hopes for final approval by year’s end. At the hearing, the Nutter Administration voiced support for the idea.