Destination Cleveland!

What do you have when over two hundred and fifty people assemble at the Wyndham Hotel representing county land banks throughout Ohio? It’s the annual Thriving Communities Institute‘s Ohio Land Bank ConferLand Bank Staff ence.
This year’s sessions highlighted many nuts-and-bolts issues and operations for land banks, as well as new topics dealing with the environment, public records, communications strategies, and the role of county land banks in repurposing vacant and abandoned commercial and industrial properties.
Adding to the excitement of this year’s conference was that Ohio now has over twenty five land banks ranging from the fully operational Lucas County Land Bank and Cuyahoga Land Bank, to smaller land banks that only have a few employees. Thriving Communities Institute, Executive Director James Rokakis, opened up the conference with a report on the importance of land banks in stabilizing our communities and highlighted Thriving Communities Institute’s work throughout Ohio.
The keynote speaker was Cuyahoga Land Bank Board Chairman and Ward 12 Cleveland Councilmen Anthony Brancatelli. The Councilman gave both uplifting examples of the progress and extraordinary accomplishments of county land banks as well as examples of very sobering realitiLand Bank Staff es involving safety, crime and community destabilization associated with vacant and abandoned properties.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank this year was again involved in several conferences. Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisitions and Development, provided a detailed A to Z clinic on acquisition, demolition and environmental practices. Stephens continues to be a leader in the land banking field.
Dennis Roberts, Director of Programs, spoke on property sales strategies and renovation. His department has facilitated the renovation of over 1,100 homes since 2009.

Sarah Norman, Records Manager and Jacqui Knettel, Executive Assistant, presented on the importance of records retention for land banks.  The discussion provided both an entertaining and in-depth analysis of records management and retention since all land banks are subject to the Sunshine Laws and public records statutes.
Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, conducted a conference session for the smaller and recently incorporated land banks to give them a perspective on how to start a land bank.Land Bank Staff
According to Rokakis, “These conferences provide a great opportunity for large and small, experienced and less experienced land banks to get together, share notes and assist one another with best practices.”
The statewide conference is an important tool to drive policy to help address the vacant and abandoned properties through out the state.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank has served as a policy leader in addressing these issues. We hope to see everyone at next year’s statewide conference that will be held in Columbus, Ohio.
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