Polk County seal

Once intergovernmental organization is formed, county’s two seats will be in place

Polk County took another major step towards establishing a land bank by officially appointing two representatives to serve on the bank's board.

Assuming the county and the municipalities wrap up the work in creating the land bank, Commissioners Scotty Tillery and Hal Floyd will fill the board’s two appointed seats.

Rockmart, Cedartown, and Aragon, all of which showed interest in using the bank, still need to appoint a single representative each, however.

The county is being allotted two members because of their larger size, and while there was talk of appointing a representative for all three districts within Polk, the idea was abandoned because of the odd number of board voters needed. The county would also have to supply the initial seed money needed to create the land bank.

Board members proved to be one of the final remaining hurdles standing in the tool's way, and if created, abandoned, unwanted properties can be foreclosed and sold through the land bank- helping to remove market stagnation.

This puts otherwise unclaimed houses and buildings back on tax row and gives the structures a chance to be used again.

While each municipality in Polk would be free to use the tool, it can't be created at all without the county's final approval.

“It will take in properties, abandoned properties, primarily where people owe back-taxes,” Rethink Rockmart founding member Sherman Ross explained at an earlier Rethink meeting. “Those can be foreclosed on and put into the land bank authority, and the land bank authority can offer those for sale. Primarily, what we like to do is get developers involved.”

Ross added that the idea was to “get them interested in acquiring these properties, and if it’s an abandoned home, either renovate it, tear it down, or build something new. Its going be a great tool that will benefit the whole community.”

Using the tool, property owners can also free their hands of unwanted burdens by donating their unneeded property.

“The land bank can also acquire property through direct market purchases and donations,” Ross said. “Land banks can donate property to non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity, so that's one way to market some of these properties. One of the best things to do is bundle properties together, and encourage developers to purchase those properties.”

“It expedites the process of acquiring them. The developers have to demonstrate that they have the capability to do those projects through their experience as well as their finances. The land bank works with them to oversee their plans,” he said.

Ross has been one of the main proprietors of the idea. Regularly attending county meetings and supplying information about the idea has resulted in massive progress in only a few months.

He spoke before the board in September to speak about the urgency of establishing land bank representatives.

“Fiscal year for the board runs from January to December, but there's nothing that says it (the land bank) has to be in effect Jan. 1,” Ross explained. “I think the board has to be nominated and in place within a specified time before we can actually operate.”

Those interested in the fate of the land bank should stay tuned for future county and city meetings.