Commissioner wants tax money from eyesores - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Commissioner wants tax money from eyesores

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Chris Pike Chris Pike
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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The city of Albany has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars demolishing blighted properties, but one commissioner has a different idea.

City leaders don't want those eyesores to sit empty and become havens for drug users, prostitutes and other illegal activities.

But one commissioner says instead of spending money to tear down the buildings, the city should try to rehabilitate them and keep them on tax roles.

A little over a month ago, we watched as a more than century old building was demolished by city public works crews at this site.

Tuesday, it's nothing more than a vacant lot, with a tax lien placed against it.

But one commissioner wants to see older homes rehabbed, rather than wrecked. Chris Pike is still the new guy on the commission and he is bringing new ideas to the city.

"There's always more than one way to solve any problem, sometimes we tend to take the path of least resistance, but there are other things out there that could be more beneficial to the city," Pike said.

Instead of rushing in to demolish homes, Pike says the city should consider establishing a land bank, which would transform vacant, abandoned and tax-foreclosed property back to productive use.

"The end result is not to make money, it's to keep taxpayers from having to spend money."

Fellow commissioner Bob Langstaff sees potential in the program. "I think it's a great idea. It's a great idea to do something with the properties instead of just demolishing them and ending up with a bunch of vacant properties that require further maintenance."

A revolving fund could also be established to provide no interest or low interest loans to homeowners so they can rehabilitate their properties, rather than having to face demolition.

"If it has some value or marketability, then it's a great opportunity," said Langstaff.

Pike says rather than pouring money down the drain in demo, money can be put in to help salvage some historic structures. "We'll probably spend, by the time it's all said and done, about $1 Million demolishing buildings where we could take that same Million and invest in these programs and could generate revenue for the city."

Keeping property owners in their homes, and keeping taxes rolling into the city.

Of course not all properties could be renovated, some are beyond disrepair and will still have to be demolished.

Land bank programs take place in about five states around the country. Georgia has several land bank programs in existence, including Valdosta, Savannah and Augusta.

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