Re­think Rock­mart back to work

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Sean Wil­liams [email protected]­hoo.com

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.

En­vi­ron­men­tal Court

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.”

Code-En­force­ment

Of­fi­cer

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.

/ Sean Wil­liams

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.

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