With the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act recently passed by the state Legislature, members of the Reading Redevelopment Authority are talking about how the act could help the city to recover blighted, vacant and tax-delinquent properties for new economic growth.
“Reading is far ahead of most municipalities that are considering this issue,” John Kromer, senior consultant with the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, told the board Wednesday.
According to the organization Smart Growth America: “The new legislation enables municipalities in Pennsylvania to create land banks, local entities that can hold and manage vacant properties and direct their reuse and redevelopment.”
Kromer said City Council will review the land bank concept at an upcoming work session and that he is already working on a draft ordinance for creating the new organization, its board and operating regulations.
Authority Chairman Tod Auman said a land bank “will enable Reading to put together marketable tracts of land to develop for commercial, industrial or manufacturing uses.”
“Few of the delinquent parcels we now own are appropriate for such development,” he added.
Board member Daniel F. Luckey, executive director of the Reading Housing Authority, said he is eager to see blighted properties being rehabilitated and marketed to developers to be put back to beneficial use as quickly as possible.
Kromer emphasized that the authority would play the most important role in making sure that good properties are selected for such marketing.
“We’re trying to stop speculators and control development that is desirable and according to the city’s master plan,” noted Adam Mukerji, authority executive director.
In other business, Craig D. Peiffer, city zoning administrator, and intern Kayla J. Krott reported that vehicles are illegally parking on four authority-owned properties in the 900 block of Penn Street.
“We have to stop this,” said board member Michelle Lauter, who was concerned that the authority might be liable if trespassers or others got hurt, started a fire or worse.
The panel agreed to fence in the four properties.
– By Valdis I. Lacis