The Town of Tonawanda took the first steps Monday to test out a new countywide land bank program that could help it and other municipalities deal with abandoned properties.
The Town Board at its regular meeting Monday asked the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp., a nonprofit organization with the power to own and dispose of property, to acquire 45-55 Pyle Court in the Sheridan-Parkside neighborhood.
The six-unit apartment building was boarded up and abandoned by its California-based owner who bought it sight unseen during the housing boom but now owes $58,284 in back taxes, said James Hartz, the town’s director of community development.
“We are left with the remnants,” he said. “They just walked away. They can’t afford it.”
The land bank will sell the blighted structure for $1 back to the town, which will then demolish it and build affordable single-family homes on the land as part of its Sheridan-Parkside Redevelopment Plan.
The state passed the Land Bank Act in July 2011, and the Empire State Development Corp. created Erie County’s land bank in May 2012. So far, officials in Cheektowaga and Amherst have taken steps to use it to deal with distressed properties in their communities, Hartz said.
“This land bank act actually is another mechanism that the county has to wipe away these tax liens,” Hartz said. “That’s how they’re able to offer it to us for a dollar.”
Properties delinquent in back taxes are difficult for the town to acquire, Hartz said. The town is only allowed to pay up to market value for a property if it uses federal community development block grant funds. But back taxes often will put the cost over that amount.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• The board agreed to split the cost of a second full-time school resource officer in Kenmore East and West high schools with the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District for the upcoming school year subject to approval by the town attorney.
• The board named Michael J. Baumgartner supervisor of the town’s paramedic unit. Baumgartner takes over the $77,334.48 post from Carla Bevilacqua, who retires Sept. 20.