Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation Going Strong
DUNKIRK — The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation held its monthly meeting, as well as its annual meeting, Wednesday at the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator. Executive Director Gina Paradis and Chair Jim Caflisch led the discussion, which enumerated the corporation’s achievements and highlighted upcoming projects.
Paradis announced four recent dispositions in the area, including 8757 Pecor St. in Portland, which had been the site of a house fire and subsequent demo; 1390 Dailey Hill Road in Kennedy, which will be landscaped by its new owner; 1080 Delaware Ave. in Ellicott, another burn-out and clean-up; and 734 Main Street in Dunkirk, which is right in the middle of one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
“This is the side lot that went with the home that we sold to (a Dunkirk resident),” Paradis said of the Main Street property. “We are merging this with the partial, and he has agreed to remove the diseased tree on that lot that has caused a headache for the last couple of years.”
Of additional local interest is the organizations to-do list. The CCLBC is working with municipal boards and private owners to clean up the “Old Revere Inn” in Silver Creek and the falling-down home at 33 Main Street in the Forestville neighborhood in Hanover. The land bank also now owns the former Hideaway Bay restaurant in Silver Creek, and is currently working with the DEC and other regulatory agencies to find out what it will take to responsibly demolish the old building and re-zone the property to make it appealing to prospective developers. Of course, other properties are in the works, as well.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of (demolitions) lined up, both in Jamestown and in Dunkirk, and coming into the next tax auction in June, we’ve got to identify properties (that the land bank would like to acquire),” explained Paradis.
Reportedly, the audit process went smoothly for the CCLBC, with the 2016 year showing $827,624 in assets (as of Dec. 31), an increase over the year before (which showed an end-of-year inventory of $670,413). The CCLBC now uses an inventory-based accounting methodology, so it includes properties in the organization’s possession that will be available for new ownership and/or redevelopment.
“As of Dec. 31, this is what our balance sheet looked like,” said Finance Manager Jennifer Cameron. “We’ve sold a ton of the properties (since then).”
Cameron was also happy to state that the auditor found no malfeasance or mismanagement of assets.
“We had our audit done in two weeks,” said Cameron. “We’ve put the policies in place that (our auditor, Ed Bysiek, CPA) recommended last year. I think our financials are stronger; we’re in a good position. … (Bysiek) found nothing that red-flagged how we process things or how we account for things. … He thinks we’re doing a really good job.”
Paradis thanked Cameron for her work and financial skills, commenting that “It was a huge, huge lieft when we decided to change our accounting methodology, and she worked really, really hard with (our lawyers) and our auditors to make sure that we were doing things that were standard accounting practices and that made sense so that we can continue in our operations in a way that’s most effective and most efficient.”
Paul Whitford, Chautauqua County legislator (District 13), reminded everyone that while financials are important, the land bank needs to look at the big picture, too.
“We cannot lose sight of the correlation between our sustainability and what (the land bank) has actually done for these communities and these neighborhoods that we’ve affected. It’s much more than this,” he said, indicating the financial report. “It’s what’s going on out there, what we’ve done for the communities and for the values of the properties and adjoining properties. … We can’t just look back at dollars and cents. …It’s what we’re actually accomplishing, (and) it’s just unbelievable.”
That comment got a round of vehement head-nods and murmurs of agreement.
Officers were named during the annual portion of the meeting. They are Jim Caflisch, chair; Aaron Resnick, vice chair; Nicole May, second chair; Scott Butler, treasurer; Hugh Butler, assistant secretary; Bill Carlson, assistant treasurer.
Land Bank 2016
It was a year of wins for the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, reported the board of directors at the recent CCLBC annual meeting.
Executive Director Gina Paradis, who led the discussion at the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator, highlighted several achievements, including millions of dollars in state grants to help fund the land bank’s mission.
“Between 2013 and 2016, the Chautauqua County Lank Bank Corporation secured two separate grants from the NYS Office of the Attorney General’s Community Revitalization Initiative Program totaling $2.86 million,” she announced. “This funding has been allocated primarily toward activities related to demolition, vacant lot disposition, acquisition of bank foreclosed properties, administration and marketing.”
For another project the organization’s leaders are excited about, they are working with a new company called Orbitist.com, a “young, geo-spacial data analytics and marketing firm located in the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator.” The project will compile and present data on county-wide housing, vacancy, blight and its impacts.
“Data will be tracked and used to inform the (CCLBC’s) strategic investments as well as its performance over time. Orbitist will map data and develop multi-media communications to highlight the resulting information for educational, marketing and advocacy applications,” Paradis shared.
In other 2016 news, the CCLBC successfully applied for additional grants; the Portage Inn in Westfield was demolished and cleared to make way for a park-like trailhead; the organization moved into its new home at the Incubator; Jim Caflisch was elected as chair of the board; multiple properties were rehabbed or cleared, then sold; and the independent website www.chautauqualandbank.org was launched. Also, Paradis was recently named successor to Mark Geise.
On behalf of the organization, Paradis thanked state and local leaders for their continued support of the CCLBC’s mission and private property owners whose donations have helped to clear or clean up blighted sites. She also expressed gratitude for the land bank’s many community partners who work in myriad ways to help stabilize the cities, towns and villages in which they live and work.
She especially wanted to thank the Chautauqua County Legislature; it’s Sales 4 Rehab program and “creative problem solving” have helped the CCLBC “address blight and stabilize neighborhoods across the county.”
“In the cities of Jamestown and Dunkirk … 62 properties have entered the Sales 4 Rehab program and an additional 69 have been or are currently scheduled for demolitions,” Paradis read.
The land bank has also been active in the suburban and rural areas of Chautauqua County.
“The land bank is shifting the paradigm on how the county deals with tax-foreclosed properties by leveraging resources to tackle the glut of vacant, abandoned and condemned properties,” she added.
To learn more about the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, its mission, and its current properties and projects, go to www.chautauquacountylandbank.org.