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Kent County Commission votes to dissolve land bank

downtown Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo
Creative Commons
Grand Rapids City Hall and the Kent County building sit next to each other next to Calder Plaza downtown.

Kent County Commissioners voted today to dissolve the county’s land bank.

Officially, the vote gives the Kent County Land Bank Authority 12 months before its intergovernmental agreement with the county expires. Some county commissioners say that gives time for the Land Bank to reorganize as its own non-profit, or to renegotiate its deal with the county.

"I believe if you pass this resolution today, we are dead in the water," said Kent County treasurer Ken Parrish, who also serves on the board of the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

But Kent County treasurer Ken Parrish told commissioners both are unlikely to happen.

“I believe that if you pass this resolution today, we are dead in the water," he said. "There will be no banks willing to lend us any money. There will be no organizations willing to take on long-term projects.”

The Kent County Land Bank was originally created in 2011 during the height of the foreclosure crisis.

In recent years, as foreclosures have dwindled, the Land Bank focused more on creating affordable housing. Supporters say that work is crucial, as the cost of owning or renting homes around Grand Rapids continues to rise.

Kent County commission chair Jim Saalfeld says he believes that’s important work. But, he says, it’s not why the land bank was created.  

“This is about a program that we adopted in 2011. It did its job, it did it well. And we promised to the citizens of Kent County at that time we would close it down when it did its job.”

Treasurer Ken Parrish says if the Kent County Land Bank does end up closing next year, it’s not clear yet what will happen to any money left over from the sale of its properties.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.