Board of Omaha Land Bank has plenty of work to do before it can begin buying run-down properties for redevelopment (Omaha.com)

The board of the newly created Omaha Municipal Land Bank expects to begin acquiring run-down properties in 2015 for redevelopment, but it has a lot of groundwork to handle before doing any groundbreaking work.

Meeting Monday for the first time, the board elected officers. Tom McLeay, a real estate developer and attorney, will be the chairman. The vice chairwoman will be Jamie Berglund, an Omaha Housing Authority board member and senior director of community development with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

The treasurer will be Spencer Danner, community reinvestment officer for Mutual of Omaha Bank.

The board voted unanimously, 7-0, to name the officers.

The other voting members are: Ken Johnson, president of his own consulting company and former Omaha economic development manager; Randy Lenhoff, CEO of Seldin Co.; Scott Semrad, co-founder and manager of Urban Village Development; and Cathy Lang, COO and vice president of Accelerate Nebraska and former head of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Department of Labor.

The board also has five nonvoting members.

On Monday, the board appointed committees to work on creating its bylaws and policies and procedures, and to lay the groundwork for searching for an executive director.

Berglund said the board will have workshops, possibly in January, with three entities with expertise and experience in land banks.

Those are the Thriving Communities Institute and Cuyahoga County Land Bank from Cleveland, and the Center for Community Progress, a national nonprofit.

Berglund told the board that a donor is willing to fund the workshops. She declined to identify the donor.

Berglund said the groups are technical experts, some of whom helped craft Nebraska’s land bank legislation and Omaha’s ordinance.

The Omaha City Council passed an ordinance in July creating the land bank. It is aimed at dealing with the chronic problem of vacant, dilapidated houses and lots in Omaha neighborhoods.

Mayor Jean Stothert, who appointed the board, budgeted $150,000 in city funds for the first year of operations.

The land bank will have authority to buy or accept donations of tax-delinquent, run-down, abandoned houses, vacant lots and other problem properties, then sell them for redevelopment.

It will have to raise money, including from donors, for those purchases, at least initially.

Stothert and City Councilmen Ben Gray and Pete Festersen addressed the board Monday.

The board will be subject to Nebraska open meetings and public records laws.

The board plans to meet regularly at 9 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, 1819 Farnam St. The room is yet to be determined. The next meeting will be Jan. 14.

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