New land bank makes first offers for Luzerne County tax-delinquent properties


By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]



This condemned house at 21-23 Milton St. in Pittston may be demolished soon as part of a new blight-attacking land bank program.



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    Luzerne County Council members will discuss the repository sales at their work session Tuesday, which follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

    The house at 21-23 Milton St. in Pittston is a clear example why government intervention is sometimes needed, officials say.

    Vacant for years and condemned, the structure is in limbo because nobody wanted it in prior back-tax auctions and neighbors who may be interested in the 0.43-acre parcel can’t or won’t pay to tear it down. City officials regularly receive nuisance complaints about the home and twice have been forced to board up the windows and doors, said city Redevelopment Authority Vice Chairman Michael Lombardo.

    “It is so bad, nobody will buy it. It’s beyond the tipping point where it could be restored,” Lombardo said.

    The new blight-targeting North East Pennsylvania Land Bank Authority wants to buy the house and nine lots for $1 each from Luzerne County’s inventory of unsold, tax-delinquent real estate known as the “repository.”

    Several Pittston-area municipalities teamed up to form the tax-exempt authority last year, with a mission to clean up abandoned and eyesore properties and put them back in productive hands, which can include a municipality, charity or taxpaying citizen or developer.

    It’s the first land bank created in Northeastern Pennsylvania and among several in the state since state officials passed legislation authorizing the option at the end of 2012.

    The repository acquisitions, the first for the authority, are slated for discussion at the county council’s Tuesday work session.

    The county has around 1,000 repository properties — far more than other similarly-sized counties throughout the state. Many have lingered in the pool for years, including the Milton Street property, which is in the name of Peter Colwell and carries unpaid taxes dating back to 2010.

    State law allows repository sales at any time. The county tries to sell them for at least $500, but the payment is usually reduced to $1 if a government entity is involved.

    The other nine properties the authority wants to purchase are lots on Main, Hospital and Mitchell streets in Jenkins Township and on East Columbus Avenue, Martins Court and Rear Broad, Drummond and Chapel streets in Pittston.

    Joe Chacke, the authority ’s executive director, said the Milton Street structure is slated for demolition, and all vacant lots will be cleared of any debris.

    The authority, which received a $150,000 state gaming earmark to get started, will clean up the property titles and try to sell most to neighboring property owners to return them to the tax rolls, Chacke said.

    “With a few, we may seek a developer for single family homes, but that has not been decided yet,” Chacke said.

    If the authority ends up selling or transfers ownership of its properties to taxable individuals or entities, the county council has agreed to turn over half the county’s share of real estate tax revenue for five years to the authority to generate income for future land bank projects.

    School districts and impacted municipalities also have agreed to tax revenue sharing arrangements. Municipalities also agreed to maintain real estate acquired by the authority during the time the property is authority-owned.

    The county also received 18 other repository purchase offers, according to Tuesday’s agenda.

    Sugar Notch officials want to acquire two properties — a home at 120½ Rear Oak St. owned by Dominic Lombardi and a double-block at 867-869 Main St. owned by Russel and Florence Pakosh.

    The Pakosh structure had been vacant for years and picked apart by thieves before it was damaged in a 2014 fire, according to past reports.

    Nanticoke officials also submitted $1 bid to purchase a tiny, rundown commercial building on West Noble Street that Ontario resident Said Attalla purchased for $7,900 in 2008.

    RY Investments LLC is offering $600 for a small house at 21 Tobin Lane in Edwardsville and $500 for a half-double at 36 Stanley St. in Hanover Township.

    The other bidders and the properties they want to acquire for $500 each: Tracy Baird, a lot on Barney Street in Larksville; Amiee Braskey, a half-double at 64 Main St., Hazle Township; Christine Gavin, a lot on Spring Street, Wilkes-Barre; Lisa Burns, a row home at 11 Main St., Hazle Township; Christa Audi, a single home on Park Drive in Rice Township; Lisa Valenia, a 0.36 acre parcel in Foster Township; Thomas Ruddy, two mobile homes without land in Plains Township; Brenda Pugh, four parcels on Conyngham and Higgs avenues in Dallas Township; and Arthur Parsons, a lot at 21 Arch St. in Newport Township.

    This condemned house at 21-23 Milton St. in Pittston may be demolished soon as part of a new blight-attacking land bank program.
    http://mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_house.jpegThis condemned house at 21-23 Milton St. in Pittston may be demolished soon as part of a new blight-attacking land bank program.

    By Jennifer Learn-Andes

    [email protected]

    If you go

    Luzerne County Council members will discuss the repository sales at their work session Tuesday, which follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

    Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

    Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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