Audrey Spalding
In the final week of the legislative session, Missouri legislators may vote on the creation of a land bank in Kansas City. Given the attempts to attach the land bank legislation in its entirety to unrelated bills as an "amendment," there is a good chance that some legislators will try to get the bill passed this week.

In addition to testifying and providing suggested changes to the legislation, I have also written here repeatedly about the pitfalls of creating a land bank, in light of the 40 years of failure we have experienced in Saint Louis City. If legislators — despite the evidence that land banking can lead to abuses of political power and poor decision making — still want to pass the land bank legislation, perhaps they should consider recent land banking news from other states:

The Columbus, Ohio land bank is asking the State of Ohio for money.

The fiscal note for the land banking bills (H.B. 1659 and S.B. 795), reports that passing the legislation will not cost the state money. However, the legislation itself mentions possible funding from the state several times. Columbus, Ohio provides a good example of what could occur if the Kansas City legislation is passed. The new land bank is requesting $8.2 million from the State of Ohio. A newly established Kansas City land bank could make a similar request.

The Saginaw, Mich. land bank bought a hotel, used it for police training exercises and now plans to spend up to $400,000 to demolish the hotel and build an "aesthetically pleasing parking lot."

Regular Show-Me Daily readers know that we are not a fan of government development bets. Well, land banking takes that practice to the next level. Instead of government officials attempting to pick winners and losers by awarding tax subsidies, land banks can purchase and attempt to redevelop property. What could possibly go wrong?

Consider the case of Saginaw, Mich. In December, the Saginaw land bank purchased a hotel for $235,000. Since then, refrigerators and microwaves have been looted, and the sheriff's department has conducted "emergency response exercises" there. The building is riddled with black mold, and the county is paying $15,000 per month for utility costs at the vacant hotel.

Government officials say that investors aren't interested in the property, so the next step is to demolish the building and build a parking lot. The demolition is estimated to cost another $300,000 to $400,000.

The Missouri land bank legislation is modeled on Michigan's land bank law. If legislators pass S.B. 795 or H.B. 1659, a Kansas City land bank would have the powers to make similar development bets with taxpayer money.

The Missouri Legislature passed land banking legislation in 1971, and it has been an abysmal failure. The Saint Louis land bank holds more property than ever, and pays more than $1 million every year just to mow the grass on its properties. Why repeat past mistakes?

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Audrey Spalding