Pittsburgh community chimes in on land bank proposal
By Melissa Daniels
Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 11:33 p.m.
Calling for community consensus, Ronell Guy stood in front of more than 100 Pittsburgh residents and told City Council to be more inclusive.
“I'm tired of being left out,” said Guy, executive director of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing.
Council held a public hearing Thursday night on proposed land bank legislation, drawing a crowd in council chambers that spilled into the halls and had 68 speakers signed up to comment.
The proposal has incited calls for equity and transparency in Pittsburgh land use.
“We need to be careful and thoughtful and conscientious about what we create,” Guy said.
The legislation creates a seven-member land bank board with the power to purchase vacant city-owned or tax-delinquent properties through an expedited title process, among other fast-track capabilities, and resell them, though the land bank members would be responsible for outlining sale procedures.
Speakers represented neighborhood groups, faith organizations, business owners and private developers. Nearly all of the first 20 speakers urged council to rewrite the bill in some capacity, even those who said they support the concept.
The bill is sponsored by District 7 Councilwoman Deb Gross. Thursday night, she said feedback is part of the process in amending the bill and “making it more responsive to our needs.”
Rashad Byrdsong, founder of the Community Empowerment Association, suggested creating a land bank task force that could nominate four of 11 board members.
“Some of us have spent upwards of 20 years addressing blight in our communities,” he said.
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-8511.
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