Neighborhood revitalization initiatives to be discussed at the city council meeting on September 16
The city council will be voting on a wide variety of initiatives Monday evening including joining a regional land bank, demolition of houses, repair of the bridge on W. Main St. over Stevens Creek, the purchase of 7 new police vehicles, and annexation of 20 properties. Below are the highlights associated with neighborhood revitalization.
DECATUR MAY BE JOINING A REGIONAL LAND BANK - A land bank manages the hundreds of tracks the city has or will acquire through foreclosure, demolition, tax sales, and the soon-to-be completed acquisition of over 700 Macon County Trustee lots. The city has multiple options for how to manage these tracks including internally managing a land trust, creating a land bank for its own purposes, or joining a pre-existing land bank.
What is a land bank? Land banks are able to maintain land, demolish structures, and buy and sell land, and have similar real estate powers to local governments. In addition, land banks can receive grant funds from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
City staff are recommending that the City of Decatur become part of a regional land bank. The land bank is currently called the Vermillion County Land Bank Authority (and includes many cities and villages) and its name would change to the Central Illinois Land Bank. Under the regional land bank’s rules, land bank projects within the corporate limits of a member local government must be approved by that local government. In addition, the city can transfer as many or as few parcels to the regional land bank as it wishes.
CITY MAY BE APPROVING DEMOLITION OF SEVEN ADDITIONAL HOUSES – To date the city has demolished 26 properties and with council approval will be demolishing seven more. It is good that the city of Decatur is making progress on the demolition of dilapidated houses. However, the city’s progress is not keeping pace with the pace at which blight is occurring. Since January 1, the city has declared 217 properties unfit for human habitation, and has secured by boarding up 116 properties. Moreover, the demolition list has increased from 137 at the start of the year to 193 as of the end of August.
My best estimate is that the city has now committed to at least 116 houses being demolished in 2019 (i.e., to date the city has demolished 22% of the houses it has committed to). This includes: 20 houses that were to be demolished in early 2019 as discussed by the City Council on 12/17/18, 46 houses that began the process of demolition as per the 3/4/19 meeting, at least 50 structures as per the neighborhood revitalization roadmap, and an unknown number of houses such as the one on 800-block of W. Decatur St. that suffered fire damage from arson (the city averages 36 arson fires a year and it is unknown how many of these fires will require demolition of the property).
Meetings take place at the City Council Chamber located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend, and 3 minutes per citizen is allotted for public comment near the beginning of each meeting. An agenda to each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/