New, improved Gadsden Land Bank Authority process includes new property software

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The Gadsden Land Bank Authority has contracted with ePropertyPlus, an industry leader in residential redevelopment software, to provide mapping and record-keeping services as the Gadsden Land Bank continues to streamline its processes and work toward its goal of redeveloping residential areas in Gadsden.

The State of Alabama owns many properties throughout Gadsden. In most cases, these properties are tax-delinquent and have been abandoned by the owner because of the amount due in back taxes. The Gadsden Land Bank’s mission is to facilitate obtaining and conveying properties to a new owner who will redevelop those properties with titles free and clear of liens.

“Our land bank gives us a tool for dealing with vacant lots and otherwise undeveloped properties,” said Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford. “It’s important that the City partners with the Gadsden Land Bank Authority Board to fight blight, provide housing for residents, and stabilize our neighborhoods. With an organized and strategic approach, this can be one more tool to help us grow Gadsden.”

By working with ePropertyPlus, the Gadsden Land Bank can offer an updated map of properties that have the potential to be obtained through the Gadsden Land Bank process. The software will also facilitate a streamlined application process and communications with all interested parties and ensure transaction records are adequately maintained.

In addition to the new software program, the Gadsden Land Bank has been working over the past several months to update its bylaws, policies and procedures. Due to turnover in personnel assigned to administering the land bank since its launch in 2015, the newly organized board has worked with new city planning director Rod Scott to study best practices for land banks in Alabama and throughout the country.

“We quickly realized that administering a quality land bank program is a complex task,” said Scott. “So, it was important to the board and my team to set up rules and regulations that protect the integrity of the process while making it clear what those expectations will be for those interested in obtaining property through the land bank. In the end, we are focusing on redevelopment of properties, and the reality is doing that will involve both time and resources.”

Scott, whose credentials include degrees in econometrics and business administration from Yale University and Dartmouth College, is a former economics professor at Miles College. The former state representative from Fairfield was involved in developing the laws that first authorized land banks in Alabama. Scott says the land bank will be a crucial component of the city’s new master plan, which is currently being developed by Goodwyn Mills Cawood and is expected to be finalized in early 2024.

While future applications will use the new ePropertyPlus system, previous applications submitted to the land bank are being researched and addressed case by case. To have a clear title to convey to a new owner following official board approval, the land bank must first receive the tax deed from the State of Alabama and conduct a “quiet title” action, a legal process that often takes four to five months.

This is a typical process because the land bank has limited pre-cleared titles and deeds on hand. The cost to acquire a property through the land bank is based on the value of the property and those costs incurred through the quiet title process required for the transaction to be completed.

“We have several properties in residential areas that are already owned by the City of Gadsden, which means we don’t have to go through all the lengthy legal processes,” said Ford. “We are actively looking for people who can show us detailed plans for redevelopment of available property in Gadsden to inquire with the City Clerk’s office about those owned by the municipality. Otherwise, the land bank board is responsible for managing the process for obtaining properties owned by the State of Alabama.”

The City of Gadsden, a separate entity from the land bank, owns clear titles and deeds to several properties, which can be requested through the City Clerk’s office.

The City Clerk’s office can be reached by phone at 256-549-4516 or email at inelson@cityofgadsden.com.

For more information about the Gadsden Land Bank Authority, including maps, applications, policies, procedures and bylaws, visit www.gadsdenlandbank.org.

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