Cedartown officials working on blighted properties ordinance
The City of Cedartown is working toward bringing a number of problems under control, and of those problems a focus is being placed on doing something about blighted properties throughout the city limits.
A ordinance to bring blight under control in Cedartown will soon be up for a vote, but ahead of making any decisions Cedartown’s buiding inspector Joseph Martin wanted to make sure the city commission understood exactly what he’s targeting.
So last week, commissioners and city manager Bill Fann took a bus tour instead of staying indoors for their community input session to see exactly what Martin wanted to tackle.
What the commissioners saw during their brief tour of Southeast Cedartown were some of the worst offenders when it comes to residential blight, with at least a half dozen of the homes on the tour found to have collapsed roofs, and one of those with people still living inside.
“Obviously, we’re concerned for the safety and welfare for anyone who lives in conditions like that,” said city manager Bill Fann. “Sometimes there are personal conditions that affect that type of thing. But no one should have to live in that type of squalor.”
Fann said the ordinance to bring these blighted properties back up to code will force those who own the problem houses to pay a sevenfold tax increase. If those items housing inspectors have noted are fixed, then the tax increase are credited back to the property, he said.
“I would prefer that those properties that can be rehabilitated are fixed. Those are some beautiful old homes over in that neighborhood, if they had been kept at minimal levels would be worth much more than they are today,” Fann said.
“Hopefully, there’s someone out there who would like to participate in some development projects for that kind of neighborhood. These are historical homes that could be worth a lot of money if fixed up.”
For city commissioners like Jordan Hubbard, there is no simple solution to blight, but the new ordinance up for vote in the coming months will give the city a new tool to combat problem residences.
“The thing is, the city’s had a list for a while. The key is having the support of all the commissioners,” Hubbard said. “A lot of times people forget that people have neighbors, and people have put their heart and soul and mortgage payments into a house, and then they have this next door, which can hurt the value of their property. It’s unfair for them too, it should be fair for everybody.”
Hubbard and Fann both agreed the idea for targeting blight isn’t to force people out of homes or to target one neighborhood over another, but simply to brighten Cedartown’s residential areas to make them more commercially viable.
“Now granted this is not the only area where we’ll be targeting, because its coming into the city,” he said.
Hubbard pointed out if the town looks bad, it’s hard to attract businesses to open their doors in Cedartown.
“If we’re not willing to invest in our city, then why would some- body from outside want to come in here and invest,” he said.
The worst properties the city is targeting for renovation or demolition include this list provided by the city:
Two properties in the Goodyear Village on Fourth and Sixth Streets that were burned and need to be demolished; 1327 Brooks; 718 and 723 Cleo; 708 and 724 Davenport; 141 and 147 Ellawood; 521 Gibson; 200, 204 and 219 Merritts Avenue; 211 Martin Luther King Blvd., and 509 Line St.
The city included two businesses on their worst offenders list, the old Del Taco building on Main Street and another closed commercial property on Wissahickon Street.
All of these property owners are the ones the city will be targeting with the tax increase first if the measure passes following a commission review and vote in an upcoming city commission session.
The situation the city is trying to avoid is having to take absentee landlords and homeowners to court under condemnation proceedings for not fixing the problems with the houses under their ownership.
“We try every course of action available to us before we go to court,” Fann said. “The reason is because we’re trying to save the taxpayers as much as possible. It’s Joe Citizen’s dollar that gets spent on the demolition and rehabilitation of those properties.”
According to the list of blighted properties the city released following the tour, the city tore down a number of structures already it considered blighted, totaling 33 properties in all. Those included residences in some of the areas being targeted currently, including three properties on Cleo Street, three properties on Prior Street and two properties on Thompson Street.
This house, located in the 500 block of East Gibson Street near the intersection with South Broad Street, is just one of many examples of blighted properties within the city limits of Cedartown.