Lincoln County is a wonderful place to live and do business but we know we aren’t perfect. We struggle with vacant and dilapidated properties like so many other communities around the state and country. Nearly 25 percent of all our housing units are vacant, a number that has been creeping up for quite some time. Significant buildings in our downtowns are deteriorating with the cost of improvements only increasing. As these vacant and dilapidated properties decrease in value, they become a burden to city councils and community organizations who are working hard to grow our county.
The Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation (LCEDF) has been researching ways other communities have been dealing with this problem in order to assist our local elected officials and leaders as they deal with the same thing. Returning vacant and dilapidated properties back into productive use is too complex for one simple solution; however, new tools and programs have been developed that are making positive impacts. A few of these tools are listed below:
1) Land Banks
Land banks are governmental entities or non-profit organizations, with unique legal power granted by state law, that are focused on converting vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties back into productive use. Some of the cities that have created land banks are: Abilene, Hutchinson, Greensburg, Concordia, Fort Scott, Pittsburg and Mulvane.
- FAQs: https://www.communityprogress.net/land-bank-faq-pages-449.php
- Kansas communities that have created land banks: Mulvane, Abilene, Hutchinson, Lyons, Greensburg, Pittsburg, Concordia, Fort Scott, Wyandotte County and Belleville.
- Legal Basis for a Land Bank in Kansas: https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/Land.Bank_.Kansas.WEB_.1.pdf
- Pittsburg, KS: https://www.pittks.org/economic-development/community-development-and-housing/land-bank/
- Lyons, KS: https://www.lyonsks.org/connect/departments/administration/community_development/landbank_applicaiton.php
2) Vacant Property Registration Ordinances (VPRO’s)
Vacant property registration ordinances (VPRO) ensure owners understand their obligations of ownership relevant to local codes and minimum maintenance standards and can also assess a fee and/or penalties on vacant properties. Russell and Emporia have created VPROs.
- Info on Vacant Property Registration Ordinances: https://www.communityprogress.net/tool-1—-vacant-property-registration-ordinances–pages-257.php
- Russell, KS: https://www.russellcity.org/267/Abandoned-andor-Chronically-Vacant-Build
- Emporia, KS, blog about their VPRO – https://emporiamainstreet.com/chronically-vacant-property-ordinance/
- Emporia, KS ordinance – http://www.emporia-kansas.gov/files/publications/VacantBuildingOrd1420.pdf
On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, the LCEDF organized a public presentation on these tools to local leaders. Information from the meeting is below. The goal was to discuss Land Banks and VPRO’s to give people the chance to ask learn and ask questions. The next step is for each city council to discuss it in their upcoming council meetings in order to decide if, and how, they would like to move forward with one, both or none of the ideas.
If you are aware of other programs communities are using to deal with vacant and dilapidated properties, or if you have feedback on the information above, please feel free to contact the LCEDF by calling 785-524-8954 or emailing LcedfDirector@Outlook.com.