The Macomb Daily

AUTHORITY FORMATION REJECTED BY BOARD

Treasurer, Executive sought to establish of land-bank authority

- By Jameson Cook jcook@medianewsg­roup.com

The Macomb County Board of Commission­ers rejected the formation of a county land bank authority based on concerns the contract between the state and county did not provide enough “accountabi­lity and transparen­cy.”

The board defeated the measure in a 8-5 vote Thursday with seven Republican­s and one Democrat voting against it during a full board meeting in the County Administra­tion Building in Mount Clemens.

The tally turned from a 7-5 vote (Chair Don Brown was absent) in favor of the authority at a full board committee session only two days ago.

Brown, a Washington Township Republican, said he voted against it the board’s attempt to add language was rebuffed the Treasurer’s Office and Corporatio­n Counsel, the county lawyers’ office which operates under the guise of County Executive Mark Hackel.

“There was an attempt to strengthen the good work done on the agreement, to add language that would give additional accountabi­lity and transparen­cy for taxpayers,” Brown said. “Unfortunat­ely, those amendments were dismissed so it didn’t get the votes to pass.”

Brown said board members attempted to require the authority to provide an audit of its financial statements to them and the county executive’s office, and for authority members to have experience in a certain area in order to be appointed.

Commission­er Don Van Syckel, a Sterling Heights Republican, attempted to amend the deal at Tuesday’s committee meeting, but county Corporatio­n Counsel John Schapka said the board could only wholly accept or reject the deal. The board cannot engage in amending or negotiatin­g a contract presented to it by the administra­tion, he explained.

VanSyckel said after Thursday’s meeting that while he supports the mission of a land bank authority, a majority of the board wanted more oversight over the agency. He said the five-member authority board could change the articles of incorporat­ion at any time without board approval.

“There’s lots of lawsuits and controvers­ies over land banks in other areas,” VanSyckel said. “These instances give one pause.”

Of his amendment, he said, “We were trying to make sure the authority had high standards.”

In defending the proposal, Deputy Treasurer Ralph “Skip” Maccarone told the board Tuesday an authority member could remove another one who “went rogue.”

Assistant Corporatio­n Counsel Frank Krycia said at the same meeting the county would be protected because the the authority would operate under county policies, and members and staff would be subject to the county Ethics Ordinance and Ethics Board.

Commission­er Phil Kraft, a Chesterfie­ld Township Republican, said at Tuesday’s meeting he opposes land banks in general due to their use of taxpayer dollars in a private industry, the real estate market, and had concerns over Hackel being able to appoint three people to the board, although the board would have approval power.

A land bank authority would acquire distressed, unwanted properties, typically those in tax foreclosur­e, to rehabilita­te and try to resell them to put them back on the tax rolls and help spur economic activity. A land bank authority can make money from selling the properties and can collect revenue from the parcels for up to five years. A land bank property also can be part of a tax increment financing district.

Joseph Rivet, the State Land Bank Authority executive director, explained the benefits to the board at Tuesday’s meeting, saying there is limited downside to it.

The State Land Bank Authority owns about 2,800 properties, including four in Macomb County. A county land bank would have many more properties on its radar as the state authority has limited resources to pursue the tens of thousands of potential land-bank properties throughout the state, officials said.

Officials said county land bank officials could work with local communitie­s in targeting properties for rehabilita­tion. The land bank also would be eligible for fund

 ?? MACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO ?? Macomb County Commission­er Don VanSyckel at a prior Board of Commission­ers meeting in Mount Clemens.
MACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO Macomb County Commission­er Don VanSyckel at a prior Board of Commission­ers meeting in Mount Clemens.

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