The start of the new fiscal year for the city of Hopkinsville has given the Lot Next Door program more funding to get the initiative established.
Hopkinsville City Council approved the program to be an official committee during a city council meeting in May.
The approval authorized the mayor and Chief Administrative Officer, Troy Body, to initiate legal action and release liens as needed for the facilitation of the program.
The Lot Next Door program was awarded upwards of $250,000 in the new budget, for new software that will connect code enforcement and other departments to streamline the process, Body said.
“That’s going to help us synchronize, modernize and help everyone be on the same page. By everyone, you’ve got the code enforcement division, the mayor’s office, the new revenue enhancement office and the city attorney, plus Mike Perry the Director of Public Works,” Body said.
New software will make the program and discussion between offices more efficient as well as allow code enforcement officers to work while in the field, Body added.
Body said there additional money was allocated to hire someone to manage the Lot Next Door program.
“When citizens call or come in, she (the new hire) will be able to walk you through it because it’s very legal. You got to get it right because you’re dealing with property.”
The new staffer, Body explained, will also staff the Land Bank Authority which he says is important to help move the properties.
“It brings a lot of vigor and light to both of these programs and we’re getting it off of the ground,” Body said.
He said that in five years time, the program will look drastically different but for now their priority is getting the program off the ground.
“We were delayed a year because of the pandemic. The courts were basically shut down.”
As the courts reopened, Body said, he was told that there were more important cases such as delayed murder cases that cause the legal action required to move the properties off the city’s register to be more delayed.
“We’re ramping back up, we had a detour but again, the council and the mayor have been extremely supportive,” Body said.
He added that many community members are already interested in the program. He said many city offices have been receiving numerous phone calls.
While the numerous interested citizens has been a great start, Body explained that the Lot Next Door program is a process.
Body said that this program will not transform the city of Hopkinsville in six months to a year.
“This is something that we are going to have to work on in the course of several years.”
The Lot Next Door program is looking to have five to 10% (out of 950) lots be bought by the end of the fiscal year, Body said.
“Done right, (The Lot Next Door program) it should pay for itself.”
Abandoned lots throughout the community have fallen to the Public Works Department for maintenance and appearance.
Body explained that the city does not get any taxes off of managing the lots but they do spend their budget on upkeep.
Body added that once the lots can be added to the tax roll, the city will be receiving taxes off of the property, “even if we get a small amount of tax revenue.”
The LND program has several steps, which Body says will take time to complete.
Once identified, the property owners adjacent to the vacant lots will be given a notice asking if they are interested in purchasing the property.
Interested LND applicants must own the adjacent property to have priority.
Eligible LND applicants can submit their interest letter and a $25 non-refundable fee, then a Landbank donation letter will be sent to the owner of the identified lot.
If a lot owner does not respond or donate property, the city may file foreclosure on the lot. From that step, if a sale is ordered, Lankbank bids at public sale of property.
During that process, city taxes and liens are forgiven and a clear title is established.
Once the property is acquired by the Lankbank, they will contract LND applicants for cash or sweat equity.
A 12-month maintenance period is required. If successful property is deeded to the LND applicant.