New York state is adding one more layer of government assistance to Chautauqua County - and the locals seem more than happy to accept.
Earlier this month, Empire State Development Corp. announced our county was approved for land bank status. This program allows government to seize foreclosed and abandoned properties to return them to their respective tax rolls. It is believed that the program, if successful, could increase property values and housing rates.
"The land bank program empowers local entities to transform urban blight into a source of economic development that will strengthen communities across New York," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Let's look at the big picture. This land bank plan in no way solves or fixes what ails Western New York and Chautauqua County. First, government is seizing land - that nobody wants anyway - and then it tries to resell it.
Government taking land is never a good thing. Added to that - the real elephant in the room - is there is no demand for land here from outside investors as our county continues to be one of the top 10 taxing jurisdictions in the nation.
Next, if government seizes the land and no one wants it - a very good possibility - then what happens? Do neighboring property values increase because one less property is owned on the block?
Sure, the land bank program sounds like something that could save our region for generations to come. But like all the other government gimmicks going now - from local development corporations, to tax breaks for small business to property tax STAR rebates - nothing has worked. Population numbers in our area keep going down - and government already has too many abandoned properties in its possession.
Land banks? No thanks.
Fix the real problem - heavy taxation at every level of government, from the schools to the county, towns, cities and villages.
Once we consolidate our too many layers of government, get our expenses in line, then maybe we can count on private investment, which will lead to jobs.
This land bank plan is window dressing - plain and simple. It is also big government at its worst: creating a no-win solution to look like it is doing something about a decades-long problem.