Recently some colleagues and I put together language that, if passed, would put a temporary hold on the transfer of City-owned properties for up to 90 days. It was brought out of City Parks and Property committee as an emergency and required a suspension of rules on the floor. Many members of the City Council felt this halt was necessary to prevent the administration from possibly making more mistakes and protecting the people’s assets.
Recent land sales have shed light on outdated legislation and lack of due process. To date, we still don’t have all the answers as to how the property was sold without an agreement. The Mayor said that somewhere from start to finish, the detail of a purchase agreement was overlooked. Many have called for someone to be held accountable, and nothing has come of it. The sale of the property is final, and there is not much that can be done without spending taxpayers’ money on legal actions which may or may not produce an outcome some want.
City Council is on recess during the month of August. This leaves questions unanswered while allowing more transfers of land bank property with a simple swipe of the Mayor’s pen. Council members recognized the lack of checks and balances in the land bank program and wanted to close the loopholes. Resolution 96-2021 gave the council time to create legislation that would add checks and balances for property transfers and set a deadline for Council to complete such protections.
City Council needed 6 of 8 votes for suspension. Council members for Ward 1,3,4 and both at large voted to move forward while our colleagues from Wards 2,5,6 voted no. This killed the passage on the floor, and the halt was not put into place.
In my opinion, without answers regarding the concerns of the residents of the City of Barberton, the administration should not move forward with any transfers of land bank property until protections are put into place, and City Council can update the process for which property is sold/transferred. My fear is that properties will now be bulk transferred to an Agent of the City of Barberton, where it will be even more obfuscated. This would go against the concerns of the City Council and could have been stopped with resolution 96-2021.