Officials consider creation of land bank authority

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Talks are under way between Albany and Dougherty County officials to determine the viability of creating an authority that would help get property seized through demolition back onto the tax rolls.

During discussion of blighted property at Tuesday's Albany City Commission meeting, City Manager Alfred Lott told commissioners that he has had discussions with officials with the Dougherty County Commission about the possibility of creating a land bank authority that would essentially allow local governments to offload parcels of land that were previously home to blighted property.

Over the last 18 months, the city alone has demolished hundreds of vacant houses, blighted properties and condemned parcels.

But rather than go through the eminent domain process to seize the properties -- which limits what purpose the properties can then be used for -- the city has opted to go through the condemnation process and place liens on the property owners.

That in itself is problematic since property owners aren't forced to pay the lien off until they sell or attempt to rebuild on the property, which often leads to lots sitting vacant for extended periods.

An authority, however, doesn't have the same constraints as other government entities, officials say, and would be able to foreclose on the liens, acquire the properties and then sell them for fair market value.

That option gets the properties back on the tax rolls and repays the government for the expense of demolition, Lott said.

"What we want to do is dispose of the properties and get them back on the rolls and offer them at fair market value to entice redevelopment opportunities," Lott told commissioners.

The idea of a land bank is hardly a new concept and was one of many ideas suggested by Mayor Pro Tem Christopher Pike during his campaign for the Ward 3 Commission seat.

In Macon and Bibb County, a land bank authority has helped to reclaim areas of slum and blight and fostered pockets of redevelopment that has boosted property values of neighborhoods.

Pike asked the commission Tuesday to begin a dialogue that would ultimately help discern between abandoned property that has potential for easy rehabilitation and blighted property that is unlikely to be fixed.