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Ripley hears options with Land Bank

September 2, 2017
By DAVID PRENATT - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - The town of Ripley may receive help from the Chautauqua County Land Bank in dealing with issues of vacancies, blight, and derelict structures, board members learned at a recent meeting.

Chautauqua County Land Bank Administrative Director Gina Paradis told board members that the CCLB was designated by New York state as one of only five land banks, in 2012. "I joined the land bank as its first employee in 2014," she said.

There are now 20 land banks in New York state, and they are growing as a tool to help communities deal with the issues of blight and vacancies, Paradis said. To date, the CCLB has interceded with about 220 properties, she added.

Paradis told board members that, by working with the state legislature and municipalities, the land band categorizes abandoned, foreclosed and vacant properties, thus determining if they are to be renovated or demolished.

"We are trying to find purchasers who are willing to invest in properties and bring them up to the level of other properties in the area," Paradis said.

Purchasers sign a contract agreeing to certain required renovations, Paradis said. Money is held in escrow until all renovations and inspections are completed on a property The renovated properties seem to have a very positive "snowball effect" often inspiring neighbors to make renovations to their own properties, she added.

Paradis said the main goal of the Land Bank is to help municipalities acquire the title to vacant properties, eliminate the liabilities, and transfer the properties to new responsible owners. "One of the biggest problems is that we can't touch a property that is still in private ownership," she added.

"We've committed $2.1 million for demolition," Paradis said. "If the municipality can obtain title to a property, then we can help with demolition."

The one thing the bank did not in the early years that is now has is money for mixed use properties, Paradis said. "Now we can intercede with properties that have both residential and commercial use."

Paradis told the board that the land bankgets most of its funding through the state Attorney General's Office. The National Mortgage Settlement funds have provided significant revenue, she said.

In another matter, Town Supervisor Doug Bowen told the board that Sewer District 2 has been funded and the paperwork has been signed. "We should receive a congratulatory letter in about 2 weeks," he said. "Then the final engineering can be done and we can go out to bid."

Bowen noted that construction of the district should begin in the spring of 2018.

Bowen also brought up the issue of an acceptable water rate for non-district users. Bowen calculated a rate based on a $26 per quarter ready-to-serve charge and the cost of a unit of water.

Bowen said non-district users typically fill huge tanks when their wells run dry. The board briefly discussed the matter and voted to charge non-district users $6.33 per thousand gallons of water.

The board also received an update on the Consolidated Funding Application, or CFA. The Ripley Beach Application has been submitted, Bowen said. He thanked deputy supervisor Mike Rowe for all his diligence and work on this.

The Ripley Beach Project is a $320,000 project, Rowe said, and the state will put up $240,000. That leaves $80,000 to be matched in kind and cash, Rowe added.

Bowen said the sewer infrastructure upgrade application, which is also part of the Consolidated Funding Application, has been submitted, in the amount of $750,000.

In another matter, Bowen asked for board approval of a resolution regarding the property at 135 West Main St. The resolution states that a notice dated May 22 and a town letter dated June 8 which required cleanup of the property within 60 days met with non-compliance.

The resolution further states that failure to correct conditions by Sept. 8 will result in the town entering the property to perform clean-up with all costs being the responsibility of the residents. The board accepted the resolution.

Ripley resident Janet Skinner said, "We applaud you on making the resolution."

The DEC was here for a hearing about the property at 135 West Main Street, she added.

Skinner told the board that what Paradis said about a "snowball effect" when properties get renovated also goes the other way, and that's what seems to be happening around the West Main Street property. "It's a bad situation all the way around," Skinner said.

Board member Bob McIntosh told the board that he heard from State Sen. Catherine Young regarding the designation of Route 5 as a Purple Heart Highway. He said it appears the DOT was incorrect in their previous assessment of this issue.

Therefore, legislation will be introduced to designate the route as a Purple Heart Highway, McIntosh said. The designation indicates that there are towns on the route that have veteran's memorials, he said. Basically, it turns it into a destination-oriented road, McIntosh added.



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