Code squad wants more teeth in commercial blight law - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Code squad wants more teeth in commercial blight law

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May 29, 2008

Albany --  Downtown Albany leaders targeted 550 blighted properties in March and set a timeline for those property owners to comply with city codes.

Back then leaders said if property owners didn't comply, they'd be sent to court. While some residential property owners appeared in court last week, they've backed off forcing commercial property owners to comply.

Code enforcement officers now say they need newer, tougher laws on the books before they'll take commercial property owners to court.

 What's changed in the two months since code enforcement vowed to crack down on blighted properties in Albany? Code enforcement director Mike Tilson considers it a victory that a judge last week gave this property owner 30 days to tear down a fire ravaged home next to the Civil Rights Museum or the city can tear it down and they're preparing to take more to court.

"The inspectors are in the office today, as matter of fact, writing out some summons trying to get some people into court, because they haven't been doing exactly what we asked them to do," said Albany Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson.

"We're noticing a difference on a daily basis property owners are calling they're concerned now because they know that the city is serious about the task at hand," says Albany Downtown Manager Don Buie.

But has that task changed? In March the city talked about going after both residential and commercial property owners, now they've back off commercial property owners claiming they need tougher laws.

"Well, we slowed them to the commercial property because we don't have a lot of codes out there to enforce," says Tilson.

The problem is many of these buildings are dangerous that's why the city wants to move quickly. Asbestos permits have been applied for this peter Studl property to tear the back half of this building down, but there are other dangerous propertied out there.

"They walked through this building, went out the back. Couple of us were standing outside and heard a crash and the ceiling in the kitchen had fallen down, and we were lucky that day, and blessed," says Tilson.

"You needed to have a starting point," said Buie. "We have a starting point in the boarding ordinance, we have a starting point in the blight ordinance, they're doing a great job with those tools so we just need to make sure they have the proper resources to continue their effort."

That will be up to the city commission to decide next month when Tilson presents the International Property Maintenance Code he wants the city to adopt.

The Albany City Commission meets next on June 10th.

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