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City, county put heads together on potential land bank

Elected officials from both the City of Cordele and Crisp County toured Thomasville and Valdosta together last week to see first-hand the practical function of the two cities’ land banks.

Members of the Cordele Board of Commissioners and the Crisp County Board of Commissioners have heard from many constituents who have requested the two local governments look at creating a land bank in the hopes that it will help reduce blighted properties in both residential and commercial parts of the community.

A large crowd turned out in late April at a town hall meeting that covered the concepts of a land bank and how it can be a tool for community redevelopment and revitalization. Most of those in attendance were supportive of the idea, and the city and county’s elected officials have met since then to work through the ideas surrounding creation of a land bank.

Last week’s joint visit to Thomasville and Valdosta provided less of a hypothetical look and more of a practical look at how a land bank can be good for a community.

“I think it was a very rewarding trip. We learned some pitfalls that we want to avoid and some successful practices that we can build on,” said Crisp County Manager Tom Patton. “It gave us a good education about how to go from here.”

City Commission Chair John Wiggins thought the tour of the two cities’ land bank operations was the right step forward as the community continues to consider establishing a land bank.

“That’s the only way you describe this (trip), is as a positive experience,” Wiggins said. “Everybody is getting on board with it, and now all we have to do is work out the details so we can get a land bank going.”

Wiggins added that continued teamwork between the city and the county is critical not just to the establishment of a land bank, but also to the long-term success of the community.

“We are stronger together than we are apart,” Wiggins said. “If we can continue to work together and even to come up [in the future] with some services that the city and the county can jointly provide, then it’s a big plus. It makes us attractive to businesses thinking about locating here, and it makes us attractive to people wanting to live here.”

Patton pointed out that there are quite a few details left to work out before a land bank is created and used to tackle properties that are unsightly, dangerous, and abandoned.

“This doesn’t happen overnight,” Patton said. “It will take some time to get this going.”

But last week’s educational tour was an important step in bringing the concept of a land bank in Cordele and Crisp County to fruition.

“i’m glad they took the time to see for themselves what other people are doing.,” said Susan Leger-Boike, an expert on housing issues in Crisp County who has long been a proponent of the creation of a land bank.