The city has a draft ordinance that is still being tweaked and will need to pass through legal counsel and through the City Council before anything becomes official. The city would also hold a public hearing and get public input before asking City Council members to vote on the proposal.
The tax would be seven times the amount of the regular property tax millage, according to the draft ordinance.
City Manager Steve Kennedy said the idea stemmed from efforts in the city of Griffin, which has seen benefits from a similar blight tax ordinance.
“This is a way for us to go to the next level if standard attempts and notices are being ignored,” Kennedy told Kennesaw Advisory Committee members last week. “This blight tax would be a final step if nothing else works.”
Before a blight tax could be levied against a property owner, a public officer or building inspector must first deem the property unsafe, uninhabitable, abandoned or an imminent harm. Reported illegal activity at the property could also qualify it as blighted.
The determination could be a result of a public officer or city official driving by the property and then checking into the tax history and city services provided there. For example, if there is no garbage service to a property where people live, it could be considered uninhabitable.
The public officer would contact the owner in writing with steps to remedy the property in order to avoid a blight tax, and the city would monitor the progress, Kennedy said. The timeframe for making repairs would depend on the amount of work needed and would vary for each property.
“By the time it gets to (levying a blight tax), we will have done everything in the world to get the problem addressed and taken care of,” Kennedy said.
“Each city tries to find innovative ways of facing the same problem,” said Darryl Simmons, zoning administrator. “Each has authority to implement programs.”
The ordinance draft states that the building inspector or public officer can enter homes that could be blighted with a warrant from a judge, once they show the judge that there is a multitude of evidence leading to a possible blighted property.
The evidence could come from five neighbors complaining or from a drive-by visible breach of city codes.
Money collected from the blight tax, if instituted, would go toward redevelopment purposes such as grants or low interest loans, Kennedy said.