City Council unanimously approved Thursday to amend the land bank bill by naming the interim board and adding new provisions agreed upon by the bill's primary sponsors, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

The pair had been at odds in recent weeks over the number of approval steps for acquiring and disposing of vacant property as described in the bill. Clarke wanted more Council involvement and Quinones-Sanchez wanted as few steps as possible.

Ultimately, Clarke won. (Click here for the final version of the bill with new amendments.)

Quinones-Sanchez, who has been working for the last few years to get legislation passed to deal with the 40,000 vacant properties in the city, didn't even hint at a smile when she introduced amendments Thursday to the land bank bill.

Once the amendments were approved by council, the dozens of land bank supporters sitting in the audience erupted in applause.

If the land bank bill is signed into law, the city would become the largest in the nation with such a bank - a system for the sale of the thousands of vacant or tax-delinquent properties that makes it easier to turn them into tax-producing townhouses, community gardens, or affordable-housing projects.

The amendments reflect Council President Darrell L. Clarke's plan to have council input in almost every stage of the land bank sale process.

While many land bank advocates had opposed such heavy council prerogative in the process, Quiñones-Sanchez and the main advocacy group, Land Bank Alliance, agreed to drop the fight in order to get a land bank passed.

The tough work is yet to come, they say.

If Mayor Nutter signs the land bank into law, the interim board would immediately start working on drafting a strategic plan (which will need to be approved by council) and policies and procedures.

The temporary board is made up of five mayoral appointees, five council appointees and the 11th board member is chosen by the other 10 board members.

Those named in the bill to serve on the initial board are:

  • Michael Koonce, vice president of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC)

  • Brian Abernathy, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority

  • Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations

  • Majeedah Rasheed, Nicetown Community Development Corporation

  • Don McGrogan, executive vice president for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776

  • Herb Wetzel, executive director of housing and development for City Council

  • Jennifer Kates, legislative aide to Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez

  • Courtney Voss, legislation director for Councilman Bobby Henon

  • Bill Salas, founder of the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises

  • Ken Scott, president of Beech Corp., a community development corporation in North Philadelphia

  • Paul Badger, a city and suburban developer

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