Blighted property owners may have to clean up or pay up - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Blighted property owners may have to clean up or pay up

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By:  Len Kiese

October 1, 2008

Albany--  Some Albany property owners could soon have to shell out more money if they don't clean up their acts.  City leaders discovered a state rule they want to begin implementing here that would mean higher taxes for dilapidated property owners.

In the midst of what Don Buie calls the good going on downtown, there's still the bad.  He calls it blight.

"If blight has not come to your neighborhood, it will be there soon if we don't tackle this problem today," said Buie.    

To tackle the problem, Buie hopes to use a tool he discovered with a little research.  "It's called the Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Program," said Buie.    

Back in 2002, an amendment was added to the state constitution that allows municipalities to tax individual property owners at a higher millage rate if their properties are blighted. "We still need another tool in the toolbox for those individual property owners that have not been moved by what we've already done," said Buie.      

Those blighted property owners could soon be moved to pay 4 to 6 times more than the current millage rate. "We're not talking about a large number of folks.  We're talking about a few individual property owners who refuse to do what's best to get this town in shape," said Buie.

Property owners who may come under fire under this new ordinance could see it as a double standard.  There are some government owned properties that are considered blighted but haven't been re-developed.  Why should some have to pay more for their blighted property when the city doesn't?  

"That concerns me as a taxpayer and it concerns me as a board member in my obligations to the citizens in the community," said Phil Cannon.      

ADICA Board member and property owner Phil Cannon thinks some will see it as unfair.  However, government doesn't pay property taxes.  In turn, government can set an example and lead the way for uncooperative property owners.

"If a government entity owns a blighted property, we are 100 percent obligated to going out and renovating it," said Cannon.      

Buie feels the taxing move is simply the right thing to do. "Instead of having the average taxpayer take on the cost of cutting weed lots and boarding up buildings because at the end of the day, we suffer those costs," said Buie.      

So he hopes to pass those costs on to the property owners at a heftier price with the goal of getting them to go ahead and redevelop.   

Property owners assessed a higher millage rate would have a chance to appeal to a board.  City commissioners would have to approve the ordinance.  Don Buie hopes to present the information to them within the next two weeks.

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