Cobb judge: Spray­berry Cross­ing has to clean up

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - COUNTY BY COUNTY - By Ben Brasch ben.brasch@ajc.com

A Cobb County judge has OK’d the county’s first ef­fort to place a blight tax on a run-down prop­erty.

Spray­berry Cross­ing, which some cit­i­zens con­sider a 16-acre eye­sore, will need to get in line with sev­eral re­quire­ments fol­low­ing the judge’s rul­ing, the county an­nounced Mon­day.

The strip mall, on Sandy Plains Road, has five com­mer­cial build­ings, one of which is a now-closed bowl­ing al­ley that has “be­come di­lap­i­dated and a mag­net for un­sa­vory ac­tiv­i­ties,” the county said.

The reg­is­tered agent for the com­pany that owns and pays taxes on the prop­erty, Spray­berry Cross­ing Part­ner­ship, is listed as an at­tor­ney. It’s com­mon for com­pa­nies to list at­tor­neys as the agents when set­ting up busi­nesses. A call to the at­tor­ney was not im­me­di­ately re­turned Wed­nes­day.

The im­prove­ment re­quire­ments for the prop­erty own­ers range from adding “no loi­ter­ing” signs, to in­stalling and main­tain­ing a se­cu­rity cam­era sys­tem within 15 days, and check­ing up once a week on il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity and prop­erty dam­age. If they don’t com­ply, a blight tax will be added to the prop­erty un­til ev­ery­thing is in or­der. The blight tax, which in­creases the owner’s prop­erty taxes sev­en­fold, was ap­proved by the county com­mis­sion in June 2017 to tar­get rental prop­er­ties and busi­nesses. Spray­berry Cross­ing was the first prop­erty tar­geted un­der the new or­di­nance.

There is a half-acre ceme­tery that is nearly 150 years old just be­hind the shop­ping cen­ter, The AJC pre­vi­ously re­ported. A land­mark Ge­or­gia Supreme Court case in 1975 ruled that the shop­ping area could build close to the ceme­tery. The cur­rent struc­tures near the ceme­tery are grand­fa­thered, but the rest­ing place com­pli­cates de­vel­op­ment prospects for any­one who were to buy the shop­ping cen­ter prop­erty.

Cobb Com­mis­sioner JoAnn Bir­rell, who voted for the blight tax and rep­re­sents the dis­trict where the strip mall lies, said she would have pre­ferred the build­ing be de­mol­ished.

“The county is do­ing ev­ery­thing within its abil­ity un­der the code to ad­dress the con­cerns re­lated to this prop­erty and will con­tinue to mon­i­tor con­di­tions,” she said in a re­lease.

If the prop­erty goes back into com­pli­ance, it will be eli­gi­ble for a re­duc­tion in taxes for a max­i­mum of two years, The At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion re­ported when the blight tax was passed.

In Jan­uary, Pow­der Springs joined Ken­ne­saw and Austell as cities that also carry a sep­tu­ple blight tax like the county’s.

Ac­cord­ing to the county’s an­nounce­ment Mon­day, Spray­berry Cross­ing must:

■ in­stall and main­tain ad­e­quate light­ing on all sides of the build­ing within 15 days of the or­der;

■ in­stall and main­tain a cam­era se­cu­rity sys­tem within 15 days;

■ post “No loi­ter­ing al­lowed” and “You are be­ing video recorded” signs in con­spic­u­ous and prom­i­nent lo­ca­tions within 15 days of the court or­der;

■ pro­vide an en­gi­neer’s re­port de­tail­ing the proper re­pairs re­quired to cor­rect the safety and struc­tural is­sues cre­ated by the canopy’s removal within 30 days of the court or­der;

■ com­plete the re­pairs in the en­gi­neer’s re­port;

■ have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive or project man­ager visit the site at least once per week to in­spect for il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity and prop­erty dam­age and cor­rect is­sues within 48 hours;

■ re­move lit­ter within 48 hours;

■ promptly re­spond to de­vel­op­ment in­spec­tions or code en­force­ment is­sues;

■ in­stall fenc­ing around the perime­ter of the build­ing to pre­vent pas­sage onto the prop­erty.

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