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County Land Program Could Help Clean Up Contaminated Properties

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Michael Wright   Jan 8, 2013 4:55 PM
Jan 9, 2013 9:52 AM

Suffolk County officials appealed to the Southampton Town Board last month to support plans for a new program that would allow the county to seize contaminated commercial and industrial properties county-wide. The county would then clean up the properties and sell them for commercial redevelopment to help revitalize blighted areas.

One of the properties the county has already identified as a likely target for seizure, remediation and redevelopment is on Old Quogue Road in Flanders, County Planning Director Sarah Lansdale told the Southampton Town Board last month.

Ms. Lansdale was before the board to ask for its endorsement of the county’s creation of a new land bank, to stockpile the properties, seized for non-payment of taxes, while they are cleaned up and marketed for redevelopment.

“The [land bank] would be a vehicle to transfer the properties and an asset in the revitalization of neighborhoods,” Ms. Lansdale said, noting that the program would allow the county to market the cleaned up properties at attractively low prices to potential redevelopers. “The county is prohibited by state law from selling properties for less than the amount of tax owed. This would allow us to get around that and transfer these properties to the land bank for less than the taxes owed.”

The county is applying for approval and funding to create the land bank program as a nonprofit corporation by the Empire State Development agency, the state-run office that promotes economic development state-wide, primarily through loans, grants and tax credits. Ms. Lansdale said the county is looking for support for its plans from all the individual townships.

Properties to be targeted for seizure would be identified by their back tax bills. The county would develop a list of commercial properties in arrears and then town and county health officials would determine which ones were likely to be contaminated and prime candidates for redevelopment. A cleanup plan would then be developed with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The costs of the cleanup would be passed on to the former property owner.

Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins told the board that the property the county has already identified as a likely target for the land bank redevelopment program is a former junkyard located at 79 Old Quogue Road. The parcel is in tax arrears.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst noted that the Flanders area is already an area targeted by the town for directing redevelopment and revitalization resources.

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