One more hurdle has been cleared in the lengthy process to get a land bank up and running in Philadelphia.
 
The Philadelphia Land Bank Board held a two-hour long public hearing Wednesday in which it received feedback on the strategic plan the board plans to submit to City Council for approval in November.
 
For the most part, the more than a dozen people who testified were supportive of the overall plan but had suggestions for tweaks and changes, such as accessibility for the handicap and a better defined plan to preserve affordable housing in the process.
 
The land bank was approved by through legislation in December and the interim board has been working on developing a strategic plan since then. The goal of the bank is to cut through City Hall red tape and create a comprehensive system for confronting blight by turning vacant and tax-delinquent parcels into tax-producing properties.
 
Some suggestions were specific to the city's role in managing the land bank.
 
"The land bank needs a plan for how it will maintain its own inventory, which will require more resources than are being allocated to that work now," Beth McConnell, of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, said. (The land bank is starting with a $4.1 million budget.)
 
The land bank board and staff will be digesting Wednesday's testimony in the next few weeks and making revisions to the plan before presenting it to the board on Oct. 30 for a vote, John Carpenter, executive deputy director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority who has been working to get the land bank up and running, said following Wednesday's hearing. Assuming the board approves the plan, it will be submitted to City Council for approval. Then the land bank would officially start working - transferring deeds from the various city agencies to the land bank for disposition.
 
How the properties are disposed of and to whom was of concern to some residents Wednesday.
 
"We are a community that's fighting gentrification," Tiffany Green, of Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze, said. "There needs to be an inclusionary policy here. You just can't have 10 properties go up for auction because developers are sitting back waiting."
 
Land Bank board member Jennifer Kates said after the meeting that it's a delicate balancing act. Some of the affordable housing advocates are calling for equity but the private market developers also want to make sure they have fair access to properties, she said.

The full strategic plan can be found HERE. The plan's executive summary, here.