Mayor signs land bank bill into law

With the stroke of his pen, Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed the land bank bill into law, making Philadelphia the largest U.S. city to have a procedure for land disposition.

Supporters of the land bank packed the mayor’s reception room today to witness the bill signing – the outcome of a six-year campaign for Philadelphia to do something with its blighted and abandoned plots of land around town.

The purpose of the land bank is to turn vacant, abandoned properties into productive, usable spaces. Council and the Nutter administration will work to transfer all of the tens of thousands of taxpayer-owned properties to the land bank, thus consolidating them into one entity. Currently, any number of three city agencies handles land transfers. The new system is intended to make it easier for developers to work with the city in transforming trash-strewn lots into vibrant parcels of land.

Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, the prime backers of the legislation, congratulated each other on reaching an agreement to bring the measure to life. In December, they agreed to terms that a Vacant Property Review Committee would oversee the land disposition process.

“We don’t have that number today,” Nutter said of the cost of the land bank, but promised that “it works.”

He said he expects the ordinance to be fully operational by the end of this calendar year.