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Annual Conference 2012 - Awards
The Land Use Law Center is happy to announce that this year’s recipient of its Groundbreaker’s Award is the Upper Delaware River Roundtable. The Groundbreaker's Award is given to a graduate (or group of graduates) of the Center's Land Use Leadership Alliance (LULA) Training Program who has done exemplary work in the community or region using the types of land use and decision-making tools and techniques taught in the LULA program. The Upper Delaware River Roundtable was selected from a prestigious group of other past LULA graduates nominated for this award.
Through the Upper Delaware River Roundtable’s dedication to public service and its efforts in communication and collaboration between regional partners and stakeholders in the Upper Delaware River Valley, the Roundtable has been able to provide tools and educational opportunities to enhance the future of this national natural resource.
Again, congratulations to the Upper Delaware River Roundtable and all the LULA graduates who have made it possible.
Located at the Land Use Law Center, the Theodore W. Kheel Center on the Resolution of Environmental Interest Disputes was launched in April 2008 to promote the use of non-traditional forums to resolve environmental and land disputes. To further this mission, the Kheel Center bestows an annual Founder’s Award upon an individual or municipality that has worked collaboratively with its community and reinvented democracy to make change happen. This year, the Kheel Center presents the City of Newburgh in Orange County, New York, with the 2012 Founder’s Award to recognize the City’s work implementing its Distressed Property Remediation Plan. The spirit in which Newburgh approached and executed this plan exemplifies the type of community planning that the Kheel Center strives to highlight and celebrate.
In April 2010, Newburgh began this process with help from the Land Use Law Center and Center for Community Progress and with funding provided by the Ford Foundation. Over a series of presentations and meetings, members of the Newburgh community met to identify and discuss barriers to remediating distressed properties, the City’s current and past practices and staff capacity for managing these properties, and effective strategies for remediating these properties going forward. Participants at these various meetings included community leaders, neighbors, elected officials, county officials, community activists, residents and investors, public and private agency representatives, City staff, and other community stakeholders.
Through this process, these participants identified many barriers to distressed properties remediation in Newburgh. Due in part to a lack of jobs and widespread poverty, Newburgh’s distressed neighborhoods have experienced a high rate of criminal activity, a lack of private investment in property maintenance and repair, and declining property values. These conditions lead to a limited tax base and the City’s constrained fiscal condition, which has necessitated cutbacks in important municipal services. Despite these barriers and a struggling economy, Newburgh recognized several key opportunities to remediate distressed properties and, in the process, set the stage for the future revitalization of the physical, social, and economic fabric of the City. In November 2010, Newburgh’s City Council unanimously adopted a resolution approving the City’s Distressed Property Remediation Plan to create a land banking program, streamline the development approval process, and enhance local code enforcement.
In February 2011, City Council again unanimously adopted a resolution creating the Newburgh Community Land Bank. In March 2012, Governor Cuomo and the Empire State Development Corporation designated the City one of the first five municipalities in the State to create a Land Bank incorporated under the New York State Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. Under this incorporation, the Land Bank may take title to city-owned parcels that are vacant, abandoned, and underutilized and avoids property and sales taxes until the properties are restored and sold to new owners. Chartered to hold, maintain, rehabilitate, and dispose of residential buildings on these parcels, the Land Bank aims to stimulate planning, economic development, and neighborhood revitalization by concentrating its initial operations in a targeted area within the City. To increase its effectiveness, the Land Bank collaborates with community stakeholders, developers, and other governmental agencies. The Land Bank’s Board of Directors is assisted by a Resident Advisory Committee to ensure its activities respond to community interests, and the Land Bank seeks to work with local anchor institutions and businesses to revitalize and create workforce housing in the targeted area.
After creating the Land Bank, Newburgh began its land use approval streamlining process in June 2012 to remove obstacles to redevelopment and better open the City for business. This process involved a series of meetings and trainings with the City’s staff and land use boards to identify problems with Newburgh’s current process and select streamlining best practices to implement in Newburgh. This resulted in final streamlining recommendations presented in a report to City Council, which adopted a resolution accepting these recommendations in June 2012. Currently, Newburgh is implementing several of these streamlining recommendations.
Finally, Newburgh has begun to consider how it can enhance its code enforcement. The centerpiece of this effort will be a “coordinating council” of public and private interest stakeholders engaged in the development and operation of new policies, procedures, and programs to increase code compliance and enforcement. Public/private partnerships play an important role in the success of Newburgh’s Land Bank, process streamlining agenda, and code enforcement efforts.
Supporting partnerships extend beyond these initiatives as well. The Greater Newburgh Partnership (GNP) is an organization of business leaders and community stakeholders that work with the City to clean and green selected lots, enhance lighting throughout the City, and augment security. Because of the various working partnerships between City officials and staff, local land use boards, community members, local businesses, and anchor institutions, Newburgh is implementing its Distressed Property Remediation Plan successfully and experiencing positive results. For these reasons, the Kheel Center is thrilled to present the City of Newburgh with its 2012 Founder’s Award.