Kennesaw talks about taxing blighted homes
by Bridgette Bonner
March 21, 2013 12:09 AM | 3446 views | 5 5 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kennesaw officials are considering imposing a blight tax on property owners who don’t maintain their homes to city standards.

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.
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March 22, 2013
VPF42, go back and read the article again carefully this time. It says...must first deem the property unsafe, uninhabitable, abandoned or an imminent harm. Reported illegal activity at the property could also qualify it as blighted. Nobody is saying no pink pelicans in the yard. Unsafe, imminent harm, read it again.

Be Careful
March 21, 2013
I think this is a great idea.

However I would disagree with the previous commment. Just because someone lives in a run down house doesn't automatically mean they can't afford to keep it up.

It doesn't cost THAT MUCH to keep up a house. Mow the yard, pull the weeds, pressure wash the windows a couple times a year. It is not difficult or expensive to keep a house looking decent (I know, I own a house).

With that said however, most problems that I know of are rental units.

When a city issues violation notices and nothing happens, I see nothing wrong with assessing a blight tax.

I hope Kennesaw adopts this...and quickly.
March 21, 2013
If a blighted house is owner occupied, I would say leave them alone. They obviously can't afford a fee from the city if they can't afford to keep up their curb appeal to the city's satisfaction.

If it's investor-owned but blighted, take them to the cleaners, and hit them with a criminal charge if they don't own the required gun!
March 21, 2013
Man, are you so wrong. You said, "They obviously can't afford a fee from the city if they can't afford to keep up their curb appeal to the city's satisfaction." In 99.9999% of cases, it is not being able to afford it, it is because some people simply don't mind living like pigs. You can pick up a used lawn mower for $25 at most thrift stores. If you don't have $25, you surely can't afford to own a home. Trust me, I had one in my own neighborhood. I always say if you can't afford a lawn mower, you can't afford a house. If you are unable to maintain a house, you either need to hire someone to do it for you or sell and move into rental property where lawn maintenance is included in your rent. Home ownership is a responsibility, not an excuse for handouts. The tax would only be levied after bending over backwards and sideways to help the homeowner comply. By that time, it would have been identified if there was honestly a need for help (an elderly person that just couldn't maintain their yard, for example, and I am sure if the city found that was the case they would assist in solving the problem). It amazes me how some people manage to keep their lights on, keep their gas on, pay their house payment, own and operate a car, buy groceries, then say they can't afford a lawn mower.
March 22, 2013
Anonymous, point taken. Maybe leave it to the HOA. If we want our neighbors to maintain THEIR lawns to OUR satisfaction, we should all voluntarily enter into an agreement about it.

That agreement is the HOA and it is voluntary.

If the city gets in on this, the city is eroding property rights, and that is a far worse erosion than an unkempt lawn.
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