By Kellen M. Quigley

Four properties of concern within the village of Springville are expected to see improvements in 2019 after action to address the growing problem of distressed, vacant, abandoned or tax-delinquent properties through a regional program.

At Monday’s regular Village board meeting, the board approved a resolution officially requesting the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (BENLIC) acquire the four properties for potential improvements.

The four properties are at 128 Waverly St., 48 Albro Ave., 311 W. Main St. and 118 Pear St.

“The properties that are on here are the same as last time, except for the 311 W. Main,” said Village Administrator Liz Melock. “That was the only one added.”

“It is much better than it was a few years ago,” said Mayor William Krebs. “The number of properties has decreased.”

In July 2011, in recognition of the growing problem of distressed, vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties, the state passed the Land Bank Act authorizing any foreclosing governmental unit (FGU) to create a land bank to strategically acquire, improve, assemble and sell such properties.

Under this law, BENLIC was formed in May 2012 via an inter-municipal agreement among the county’s four FGUs, being Erie County and the cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda.

County-wide land banks have proven highly successful in Michigan, Ohio and other regions experiencing growing numbers of problem properties by supporting municipal and regional revitalization efforts by strategically acquiring, improving and selling the properties.

As the county’s land bank, BENLIC seeks to work collaboratively with the cities, towns and villages of the county to address the growing problem of distressed, vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties.

The village of Springville has recognized the need to address the growing issues of these types of properties and is desirous of partnering with BENLIC to address the problem.

“If you look at the properties we’re chasing, the tax foreclosures are a bigger problem here than anything else,” Krebs said. “BENLIC is supposed to be the prime way that we can help turn properties with tax-foreclosure problems back to usable properties.”

Melock said new this year is a change concerning vacant land. She said if vacant land is not sold within a year, BENLIC wants the municipality to take it over.

“We did not put vacant land on here because I don’t think we are in a position to commit to that at this point,” she said. Melock also said a stipulation requiring the village to mow the properties was also removed from the resolution.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board discussed the decision to accept or not accept a grant from the Arts Service Initiative for $1,720.

Mayor Krebs said the village applied for a $5,000 grant for public art and sculptures in Heritage Park. He said the total cost for the project would be about $10,000 with about $3,000 coming from in-kind services.

“We only got a grant for $1,720, which is about 17 percent of the total cost,” he said. “If we don’t go ahead with this project, we have to tell the agency we won’t accept the grant.”

Melock recommended the village accept the grant. She said the village could work with the artist to see if the art project’s cost could be reduced.

Krebs also said they could use the funds for some other park improvement project.

“We could put benches or something like that in any one of our parks,” he added. “And we could apply for this again next year.”

Because they have until Christmas to decide to accept the grant, the board tabled it and would decide at the next board meeting Dec. 17.

IN THE Department of Public Works report, Superintendent Kenneth Kostowniak said MDA Engineering completed the post-construction flow study. The study was conducted during heavy precipitation and concluded the sewer lining project has reduced infiltration significantly.

Kostowniak said they are still having some infiltration in project areas due to leaking private sanitary levels. He said the village plans to address laterals over the next few months.

LEWPA (the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance) reviewed the village’s grant application and liked the proposal for a storm sewer mapping and GIS inventory project, Kostowniak said.

Because they had more project applications than funding but wanted to see the village’s project done, he said LEWPA proposed getting work done by providing resources from US Soil and Water internship program and the Erie County Storm Water Coalition at no cost to the village or LEWPA. The village would provide existing equipment and assistance for a small portion.

In an update on the Mill Street drainage project, Kostowniak said additional funding for the Erie County Soil & Water (ECSW) to repair the outfall is being drafted in the Legislature. ECSW and US Fish & Wildlife are also submitting a grant application for Spring Brook bank stabilization at Shuttleworth Park in December, he said.