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Gainesville approves land bank to manage vacant properties with county
City of Gainesville Administrative Building1.jpg

The Gainesville City Council voted Tuesday, Aug. 7 to approve the Gainesville-Hall County Land Bank, a board that will acquire, manage and sell vacant or blighted properties to rehabilitate them and ensure they are tax-producing.

The council’s approval was the last step needed to create the land bank, which is a collaborative effort with Hall County. City and county officials will now appoint the land bank’s board of directors.

Councilman Sam Couvillon was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, and all other councilmembers voted to approve the land bank. 

The board of directors will have five members, three appointed by the city and two by the county, Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said. City staff will deal with daily operations.

The land bank will not have the power to exercise eminent domain or levy taxes. The land bank will work with contractors to restore the homes and make them livable so they can become tax-producing properties.

“It really deals with properties where there’s not a private market solution,” Lackey said. “Perhaps it’s just not economically feasible … perhaps there’s a difficult title issue surrounding it that can be extinguished or taken care of by a land bank.”

Properties the land bank would manage may be sitting empty due to foreclosure, code violations, title complications or tax delinquency.

Gainesville has set aside $200,000 in seed money for the initiative. The land bank will not make a profit, and any incoming money would be spent on the properties.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved the land bank on June 14. Georgia law requires counties and at least one city in the county to establish a land bank together — cities cannot create one without county support, and counties need to get at least one city involved.

Other communities in the state have already created land banks, including Augusta and Richmond County and Savannah and Chatham County.

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