When Christal Perry, with the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority Land Bank, spoke to the Neighbors Housing Group in Parkersburg last week, City Councilwoman Kim Coram explained she hoped to gain enough information and perspective from talking with Perry to better lobby fellow councilmembers to create a land reuse agency themselves.
“I want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes,” Coram said.
In order to follow up on the kernel of a good idea represented by a land reuse agency, Coram would do well to ignore a few of the more problematic aspects of Perry’s presentation.
One wonders what legal guidance the city of Huntington received in allowing its land bank to acquire properties in order to go “toe-to-toe” with landlords Perry does not believe will be good stewards of the property.
“That was our mission, was to run those people off, and we did,” Perry said. “We will bid competitively if we think somebody’s going to bid on that property for a not-so-good use.”
Such remarks warrant a close look by Coram as to how often Huntington has faced accusations of favoritism, conflict of interest or outright discrimination.
Of course, Coram was also absolutely correct in believing she will need to have a clear picture of how any staffing for such a land bank reuse agency would be funded, in order to sway Parkersburg City Council. For example, if current Community Development Block Grant funds are to be used, from what other project will those funds be taken?
Coram, the Rev. Marjorie Bevans and Ross Foundation Executive Director Tres Ross have some good ideas to consider, as they form a plan to present to City Council. But based on remarks by Perry, it is clear the trio must give greater consideration to some other challenges than it appears was given in Huntington.