City prepares for suits against property owners - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City prepares for suits against property owners

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

January 8, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Owners of blighted Albany property have been warned to make repairs, or prepare to go to court.

Albany code enforcement and the city attorney's office plan to take at least three property owners to court this month.

In all they'll target 150 properties and ask a judge to consider them blighted.

Judges could triple city property taxes for those owners.

 Both the Albany city attorney's office and code enforcement have put a bulls eye on blighted properties like these and now they've made a new years resolution to get action from property owners.

 "That's our goal to get these buildings either safe and ready for the next tenant or brought down through demolition," says Mike Tilson, Albany Code Enforcement Director.

While tools like the vacant building ordinance and the adoption of the international property codes have helped, code enforcement is prepared to take advantage of the Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Program, they call it the blight tax.

"They get an actual court summons, not just a fill in the blank one sheet of paper, but they get a petition saying the property is blighted because and then there's a court date with it," said City Attorney Nathan Davis.

Property owners will end up in Magistrate Court and they'll have to explain to a judge why their property is in such disrepair and what they plan to do with it.

"Once it's designated then you get this additional tax then it stays that way until the property's brought into compliance," said  Tilson. 

If the judge feels its blighted property, he can triple their property tax. The city will start with three cases this month, then work their way through another 150 properties in the downtown area. They call it a win for the community.

"No matter where the location of a particular property is everybody benefits when either something is rehabilitated or if it's past rehabilitation it's torn down," Davis said.

Code enforcement has hired additional staff and designated two people to deal exclusively deal with the downtown issue.

The code enforcement department also created a vacant property team to ensure those properties remain secure until they're repaired.

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