FLINT — In a big departure from its usual practice, the township board has agreed to keep nearly 100 tax-reverted properties not sold in recent foreclosure auctions conducted by the Genesee County Treasurer’s office.
The township has first rights of refusal for the unsold properties but usually relinquishes them to the Genesee County Landbank.
Last year, the township board accepted only one of 35 properties offered – a vacant lot on Norko drive northeast of the police station. In past years, it has accepted some commercial lots that were eventually resold for a profit.
But the bulk of this year’s tax reverted properties are in a residential area – though vacant. About 82 of the 96 properties the board agreed to keep are on or near River Oaks and River Forest Drives off Beecher Road.
As the names imply, the mostly vacant lots are near the Flint River which is what makes them worth keeping, according to Township Supervisor Karyn Miller, who made the recommendation to the board to keep all 96 properties including some in other distressed areas of the township.
Only township clerk Kathy Funk voted against accepting the properties. Other board members expressed concerns about maintenance and mowing.
Miller said she believes the township can better manage the properties than the overburdened Landbank which mows its numerous properties infrequently, leading to complaints from neighboring property owners.
She said she is looking into establishing a side-lot program which would allow neighboring landowners to take over adjacent properties. That would get the land back on the tax rolls and also take care of maintenance, she said.
She also referenced a Master Plan in which the county has expressed interest in riverfront properties for redevelopment such as building bike trails.
Treasurer Lisa Anderson ultimately voted yes but expressed reservations.
“Last year we decided not to take on that burden,” she said. “I don’t know that we have the funding to take on this many properties at this time.”
Trustee Tom Klee made similar comments but said he liked the idea of a sidelot program and also would like to vigorously seek state or federal funding to help with lot improvements including preventing dumping or removing old tires.
Miller said that some houses on the list have raccoons living in them and are no longer fit for habitation. She would like to see those demolished. Rehabilitation costs for others in better shape could be passed on to the new property owners, she said.
One of the properties is the former commercial home of Thompson Creek Turkey Farms on Mill Road which closed in 2015 after about 18 years in business at that location. Others include commercial properties on Flushing and Fenton roads and a residential property on Flushing Road in the Flushing School District.