Report issued in Indy Land Bank scandal
A report on Indianapolis' troubled Land Bank program found dozens of additional properties were sold or in the process of being sold to the non-profits named in the indictment.
Graceland Avenue is an unfortunate major stockholder in the city's closed Land Bank. In the length of just three blocks, there are 14 abandoned homes and empty lots the city and private developers can't do anything about.
The eyesores attract rodents, squatters, crime and the anger of neighbors.
"I want my children to be able to out in my yard playing without worrying about gunfire or seeing trash everywhere," said Chris Lloyd.
Mayor Greg Ballard shut the Land Bank down after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided city offices last month. The program makes it financially possible for private investors and community groups to redevelop the worst abandoned properties.
Two employees were charged with taking bribes to steer abandoned homes to certain non-profit organizations. The report found dozens of additional properties were sold or in the process of being sold to the non-profits named in the federal indictment.
The report concluded the Department of Metropolitan Development procedures were followed. It does not make any recommendations to simplify or safeguard the complex process of selling and redeveloping abandoned homes.
An independent audit is underway.
It also describes the confusing and cumbersome selling process. What's missing from the report is that it doesn't cast blame or identify any existing policies or procedures that may have been violated. It doesn't offer recommendations to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future.
"We are approached weekly by private entities that want to invest," said Michael Osborne, Near North Development Corporation.
The neighborhoods comprising the Near North Development Corporation have more than 70 land-banked properties now trapped in limbo.
"We can't buy them right now, but we are not stopping our efforts," Osborne said.
Those efforts include having investors, developers and plans to buy as many as 40 properties when the Land Bank reopens. Ballard says the Land Bank won't resume operations until that audit is complete and he's satisfied proper safeguards are in place.
The bank has 1,200 abandoned homes and lots waiting to be sold and redeveloped.
"So what do we do? What should we do? Where do we go?" Lloyd asked.
For now, there are no good answers.