City approves agreement with land bank


Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell called the proposed partnership an interesting one and a sign of continuing cooperation among local governments.

The rest of the city commission agreed with the mayor last week and approved an agreement between the city, Kent County and the Kent County Land Bank Authority that the land bank will monitor and maintain all the foreclosed properties within the city’s limits.

“This formalizes the relationship. They will monitor the properties every 30 days and relieve us of that service,” said Connie Bohatch, the city’s managing director of community services.

The city’s code compliance division had been tagged with that responsibility.

“I think it will be good for the properties. It also frees up our staff,” said Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, who also is a KCLBA board member.

KCLBA Executive Director Dave Allen told the Business Journal the city will install flags at every foreclosed property and his agency will receive an e-mail notification when the city gets a report that a property has become a nuisance to neighbors or is in need of repair.

“We receive 12,000 complaints a year on properties. This relationship allows us to focus on the rest of the city,” said Bohatch.

Allen said Next Step and Building Bridges, both nonprofits, will share any repair work. The land bank will not be paid for monitoring the properties. Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish, also chairman of KCLBA, is expected to designate the land bank soon as the official property manager of the parcels.

“I don’t have the exact dollar amount,” said Bohatch of what the monitoring effort has cost the city in the past. “The real intent here is they’ll take responsibility for the properties.”

But Bohatch added that the agreement will give the city a chance to recoup some of its administrative costs, something the city hasn’t been able to do previously.

“This is a very big, positive thing, it seems to me, for us,” said Heartwell.

Members of the county’s Executive Committee, however, hadn’t heard of the partnership agreement until the Business Journal informed them of it. Nothing regarding it has gone before a committee or the commission yet.

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