Allentown City Hall

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – City council Wednesday night referred to committee a bill to designate the Allentown Redevelopment Authority as a land bank.

Designating ARA to act as a land bank will make the process of acquiring private property through eminent domain "faster," according to the city's Department of Community and Economic Development.

The move will assist the city's effort to eliminate blight often found in "problem and tax delinquent properties." Occupied properties can also be acquired by the bank, with "the intention to keep the occupant there," according to the DCED.

As stated in the bill, "By designating the Authority as a Land Bank, the city intends to use available resources to facilitate the return of vacant, blighted, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties to productive use, thereby combating community deterioration, improving the quality of neighborhoods and creating economic growth by spurring reinvestment and stabilizing the housing and job market."

When acting as a land bank, ARA will be able to acquire, hold and transfer interests in real property throughout the city, as approved by the board of directors, the DCED noted. The authority can acquire those properties to prevent and mitigate blight and to facilitate the redevelopment and reuse of vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties.

The move will improve the quality of housing; increase the quantity of healthy, safe and affordable housing; promote home ownership; and stabilize and grow neighborhoods, consistent with the city's vision, mission and priorities, the DCED said.

The bill will be reviewed by the Community and Economic Development committee.

Other business

Council also authorized the administration to seek $1.5 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to help pay for rehabilitation of the Bogert Covered Bridge. The grant could fund up to nearly half of the $3.2 million renovation cost. The city has about $1.235 million in committed grant and capital funds, and will utilize Trexler Fund allocations for the rest.

The 145-foot burr truss bridge in Lehigh Parkway was built in 1841. It is the oldest covered bridge in Lehigh County and spans 145 feet over the Little Lehigh River. In 1980, it was placed on the National Register of the Historical Places.

In addition, council extended the deadline to file 2020 business privilege taxes, without interest or penalty for payment in full, from April 15 to May 17.

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