Land-use webinar to focus on stabilizing neighborhoods

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Stabilizing neighborhoods through vacant and abandoned property initiatives will be the topic of a Web-based seminar offered by Penn State Extension.

Presenting the 75-minute webinar at noon on April 13 will be April Kopas, executive director, Redevelopment Authority of Westmoreland County, and Amy Laura Cahn, staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Center.

The webinar will discuss tools available to municipalities and organizations, including land banks and conservatorships, that return vacant properties to productive use and ensure permanent protection and best management for these undeveloped places. 

Land banks and conservatorships are new tools for Pennsylvania communities to return vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties to productive use, according to according to Cahn.  “Land banks have special powers to acquire these problem properties, clear the title and convey them to new owners who are willing and able to turn them into community assets,” she said.

“Conservatorships are similarly a tool that allows a municipality, entity or individual to take possession of abandoned property or vacant lot, to prepare it for productive use.”

In Philadelphia, where there are both 40,000 vacant parcels and hundreds of community-managed farms, gardens and open spaces, advocates and city officials are looking to both the new Philadelphia Land Bank and the conservatorship law to facilitate the creation of new and preservation of existing green and food-producing community assets, Kopas noted.

“The Westmoreland County Land Bank was created to acquire and redevelop vacant, blighted properties to deter the spread of blight and to stabilize neighborhoods,” she said. “Seventeen municipalities and 11 school districts are participating in the land bank. Forty-two properties have been acquired, with 19 being resold and becoming viable again.”

The “Stabilizing Neighborhoods through Vacant and Abandoned Property Initiatives” webinar will explore the use of open space and green development as an affirmative redevelopment strategy, beyond the traditional framework of interim use.

The presentation will also discuss how land banks and conservatorships can be powerful tools for supporting greening and examine best practices, with a focus on the Philadelphia Land Bank Law and Land Bank Strategic Plan as well as the Westmoreland County Land Bank.

This webinar is part of the current winter/spring monthly land-use series. One additional program, which also starts at noon, will be offered:

May 18: "Form-based Zoning: Not your Grandfather’s Approach"

All of these programs are recorded and available for viewing.

The cost of the webinar series is $40 for all five webinars and $75 for those who want to receive certification maintenance credits from the American Planning Association.

For more information, contact Peter Wulfhorst at 570-296-3400 or by email at ptw3@psu.edu. To register for the webinars, visit the website

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Last Updated April 04, 2016