City changes focus on dilapidated properties - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

City changes focus on dilapidated properties

By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The city of Albany has scaled back the use of a tool designed to fix up dilapidated buildings.

Two years ago the city passed a vacant building ordinance to force owners to submit redevelopment plans. At the time more than 500 properties were out of compliance. The city made several owners come into compliance by boarding them up. Now the city would rather see most of them come down.

Albany Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson walks through what he calls a changed neighborhood in the 400 block of Hickory Lane. "Used to be that there were junky buildings here," said Tilson.

In June of 2009, 17 homes were demolished and paid for by the property owner. "We needed them secured or repaired or gone," said Tilson.

That need was the focus of a vacant building ordinance passed by the city in 2008. "We have some success stories with the vacant building ordinance and I'm thankful for it but we also have some challenges with it," said Tilson.

Since the ordinance went into effect, 100 dilapidated properties were registered at a cost of $100 to the owners. Owners then had to make their vacant buildings look better and submit a plan of action for that property.

In 2008 there were 62 registrations and an even lower number in 2009 with 35 properties registered. Things have changed even more in 2010.

"We're not as interested in having someone pay $100 and be able to let it sit there for years which that ordinance could allow," said Tilson.

Tilson says the ordinance just doesn't fit their plans right now. "Most of the buildings we're dealing with right now are so old, they're really not worth saving," said Tilson, "our efforts this past year have been more towards demolition."

But that new focus comes at a cost to the city. Each demolition not paid for by the property owner costs about $5,200. "Of the hundred or so registrations we did, about ten of them were demolished by owners," said Tilson.

That means with more of a focus on demos, the city is forking over thousands of dollars to get the job done. So are property owners being let off the hook? Tilson says no.

"Liens are put on the property for our costs and the $5,200 is not all that's put on the lien. There's also the cost of the equipment and the fuel and the city employee's time is put on the lien as well," said Tilson.

The city will once again revisit the vacant building ordinance in the far future and mainly for properties they feel are worth saving. "Our challenge here in Albany is that there are so many that need to be demolished. That's where our concentration needs to be," said Tilson.

The new concentration will bring down about 120 more properties in 2010.

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