Rethink Rockmart back to work
Rethink Rockmart may have taken some time off, but the group hasn’t stopped making progress in their absence.
Their latest meeting offered updates on important items such as the environmental court, hiring a full-time code enforcement officer, the land bank, and much more.
It’s no secret housing is a major point of interest for the group, so establishing a land bank authority was a major goal for Rethink.
Should the county commission agree to establish a land bank in conjunction with the other cities, abandoned and unwanted properties can be foreclosed and sold through the land bank- helping to remove stagnation in the market.
“It will take in properties, abandoned properties, primarily where people owe back-taxes,” Rethink Rockmart founding member Sherman Ross said. “Those can be foreclosed on and put into the land bank authority, and the land bank authority can offer those for sale.”
The properties won’t be in ownership limbo, and the group hopes developers will take interest in renovating or rebuilding the newly available houses.
“Primarily, what we like to do is get developers involved,” Ross said. “Get them interested in acquiring these properties, and if it’s an abandoned home, either renovate it, tear it down, or build something new. Its going to be a great tool that will benefit the whole community.”
Ross was invited to the county’s upcoming work session where he will make the case for the establishment of the land bank. Should it be created, the individual municipalities
can use it at their own discretion.
The recently established Environmental Court is also a big asset to Rethink Rockmart.
Now, those who violate environ- mental rules can be dealt with more swiftly and accurately, and the existence of the new court would hopefully deter violations that affect the city to begin with.
“What’s good about the environmental court is that the judge can have a clear understanding of what our expectations are for the community as a whole- as far as complying with codes,” Ross said. “We want to lift our community up, and by enforcing the codes, that’s one way to do it.”
The environmental court judge doubles as the traffic court judge, so locals can expect an experienced worker making decisions. Environmental cases will be designated for different days than general court trials.
“It’s the same judge as the traffic court,” Ross said. “He’ll operate on separate days and times to deal with the environmental.”
Rockmart is also looking to hire a full-time code-enforcement officer, and should one be hired, citizens can expect much speedier and effective responses to littering, debris, and other violations.
“Thanks to Jeff (Ellis,) the mayor, and the city council, we’ll be looking to add a full-time code-enforcement person,” Ross said. “That will push those cases to the environmental court, and hopefully we’ll start seeing some positive things happening.”
Rethink Rockmart’s goal is to reconnect the citizens of Rockmart and revive the community through innovative housing rehabilitation, reuse projects, and neighborhood revitalization efforts.
While the aesthetic of the city is important to the group, blight and structural damage that can cause physical harm is something Rethink has been battling since the team’s inception.
Those interested in more details about the group can visit facebook. com/rethinkrockmart.
Top: Rethink Rockmart members gathered for a lunch meeting near the end of May to get the group going again on projects this summer. Above: Jeff Ellis and Sherman Ross discuss the potential for a Land Bank in Polk County at the meeting.