Wise, Clark appointed to Jonesboro Land Bank Authority

JONESBORO — Jonesboro’s City Council voted Monday to appoint Anne Wise and City Manager Ricky Clark to the Clayton County Land Bank Authority. Anne Wise, who is Mayor Pro Tem Ed Wise’s wife, helped found the city’s Neighborhood Watch program. The councilman abstained from the vote. Clark will serve in an interim capacity until the city hires a community development director.

The resolution “express[es] the need for the Land Bank to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the city to prevent continuous blight and to support the revitalization of tax delinquent and foreclosed property.” Clayton County, along with the cities of Forest Park and College Park, created the land bank in 2014.

“We appoint members to four-year terms on the review board,” Clark said. “So far, only Forest Park is participating.”

According to the city’s executive summary, the Land Bank exists “to acquire tax delinquent and dilapidated properties in order to return property which is in a non-revenue generating, non-tax producing status to a productive status, in order to revitalize neighborhoods and create new industry and jobs for the citizens of Clayton County.”

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners appoints a board of directors to run the Land Bank. It was formed by the county, College Park and Forest Park. Any city that falls at least partially within Clayton County can join the Land Bank. The Land Bank buys blighted properties, then offers them for sale. It also can use the land for government or “community improvement purposes.”

However, other cities have had issues with land bank properties, particularly when the city is responsible for maintaining blighted properties that no one wants to buy. Benita Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation think tank, has criticized the pitfalls of land banking. In a 2010 article on georgiapolicy.org, Dodd argues, “It might as well be eminent domain. Government was meant to be limited, not to grow to compete with the free market, to have a leg up on the private sector or manipulate the use of private property use with a selective definition of ‘public purpose’.”

Instead of buying up distressed properties, Dodd writes, “Government should work with property owners on tax burdens: Offer installment options or defer payments. Facilitate purchases to a willing buyer.”

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