MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, while not technically official, already has five abandoned and foreclosed properties in its sight.
The land bank, approved by the County Legislature in March and given its status by the state last month, will not become official until its sole remaining executive board seat is approved next week.
But that hasn't stopped the group from choosing five properties throughout Chautauqua County for acquisition. Once approved by county lawmakers, the properties - situated in Jamestown, Dunkirk and the village of Fredonia - will be returned to their respected tax rolls through reputable buyers.
A home up for auction at 648 E. Sixth St., Jamestown is one of five properties identified by the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation for purchase.
At least, that's the goal right now.
"The idea is that we would select up to six properties, really, but we selected five properties from this first round prior to the auction," said Mark Geise, county Planning and Economic Development deputy director, during an Administrative Services Committee meeting Monday.
"These are properties that would be granted to the land bank by the county," he added. "The land bank would pay the closing cost on those properties, keeping in mind that any money received would then be dumped back into the other properties."
The county land bank corporation, Geise said, has been given $150,000 in county "seed money" to acquire properties, which are broken down into three categories: type A, type B and type C.
Type A properties, which are obtained before or during an auction, can be sold to a reputable buyer with little-to-no renovations required. Type B properties, most of which do not sell at public auction, may require some work before it can be sold; type C properties, meanwhile, are ones which need to be demolished.
The properties currently sought by the land bank include:
648 E. Sixth St., Jamestown
333 Price St., Jamestown
84 Risley St., Fredonia
768 Eagle St., Dunkirk
412 Dove St., Dunkirk
The East Sixth Street property, Geise said, is expected to be demolished "very quickly" by the Citizen's Opportunity for Development & Equality once funding is secured.
"It is terrible, it's burnt up and it needs to go," Geise said, noting the property could be torn down as early as next month by CODE -a not-for-profit revitalization group based in Jamestown.
Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, expressed concern that the land bank, in its first year, has the ability to "swoop down" and seize properties off the auction list before other municipalities or individuals have the chance at acquisition.
"That's my biggest concern right now," Scudder said.
Geise said by next year, the land bank would chose its properties before they reach the public auction list, and noted the corporation was still in its early stages of preparation.
Discussions then took a heated turn.
Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, said it was important for the land bank to work as the lead agency with existing groups, including CODE and Chautauqua Opportunities Inc., to become "most effective." She added that there should be an overall county policy, in connection to the corporation, to improve area neighborhoods.
"... I think we need to really to look at the land bank opportunity as an overall comprehensive approach that unites all neighborhood revitalization efforts," Cornell said in part during a nearly 20 minute comment.
Geise, however, said he wanted to see the land bank operate for a year before looking at its success.
"Let's start with this and see where it goes," he said to Cornell. "Let's evaluate after a year; let's do these five properties, look at what we've done, you know, and see where we end up.
"Next year at this time we might say 'Forget it, we're not going to do this anymore.' I mean, really, let's look at what we're doing and evaluate it. I've got a story to tell here and I think it's compelling. ... Let's crawl before we run."
After attempting to respond further, Cornell was told by Committee Chairman Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, she was "out of order" and asked her to "please be quiet" by not allowing Geise to finish his presentation.
"Can we sit here and listen to it, Ms. Cornell, if you've heard this before?" Barmore asked. "Can we let him finish, instead of listening to you? ... We came here for the presentation."
Geise, meanwhile, said he was excited to get going, noting the legislature could approve the first round of properties next month.
"I think this is a good start," he said.