(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri Governor Mike Parson will be coming back to St. Joseph Tuesday morning to sign a bill that aims to reduce the amount of blight in the community.
The governor will arrive at City Hall to sign Missouri House Bill 821 (St. Joseph Land Bank Bill) into law. The legislation passed the Missouri House of Representatives in early May.
"This had to go through two hearings in the House before it went to the House floor, and our Mayor and our chamber and our community members all came down and testified," Rep. Sheila Solon (R-St. Joseph) said. "When House members looked up at the screen when they were getting ready to vote on this, they saw that this had community-wide support."
Solon filed House Bill 821 and helped get it passed through the House of Representatives, while Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville) helped get it passed in the Senate.
The new legislation will allow the city to create a land bank. This means when vacant properties go up for sale through ways like foreclosures or delinquencies, the city will be able to purchase them, re-purpose them and put them into the hands of responsible owners.
"This is really going to help [St. Joseph] in economic growth because if you have vacant businesses - a few of them on the same street, it really is a deterrent for other businesses coming in," Solon said.
Solon said the legislation will also aim to increase property values in local neighborhoods by clearing the area of blight structures, and could help in the reduction of crime.
"These vacant properties are used as drug houses, they are many times crime scenes, and we have vagrants and squatters coming into these vacant properties doing drugs, setting them on fire," Solon said. "If you're a citizen and you have one of these vacant properties with people coming in and out all the time, it certainly doesn't make you feel safe."
The bill also addresses a second issue in the city. Solon said under the new legislation, a property owner who owns several structures and has multiple violations will no longer get to purchase the properties from the city or county.
"We've got bad actors who buy these properties, don't fix them up - have no intention of fixing them up, and they continue to languish and they never get fixed up and they get in further disarray," Solon said.
There are nearly 480 vacant structures in the city that have serious safety violations, according to Solon. She said her goal is to improve St. Joseph neighborhoods.
KQ2 will have a reporter at City Hall on Tuesday morning to cover Governor Parson signing the bill.