Augusta blight ordinance aims for cleanup of decaying properties

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta is full of old, abandoned, decaying properties. But Augusta commissioners just took a big step after years of talk by passing this city’s first blight ordinance.

There are thousands of abandoned houses in Augusta. The ordinance pushes property owners to clean up their property or face increased taxes. There have been several city efforts in the past to address blight, but we found out what makes this different.

Old, nuisance, and abandoned properties. A problem leaders hope a blight tax seven times the normal rate might solve.

“Blight is the result of crime, drugs, and homelessness and lack of education, lack of opportunity,” said Kim Sharpton.

Sharpton lives in Marion Homes. When he moved in seven years ago, blight was everywhere. He‘s been encouraging neighbors to get involved.

“You know, helping each other, you know on the weekend I come through and help out and they’re coming through you know to share tools, all the things that we can do to make the burden a little lighter,” said Sharpton.

He’s hoping the ordinance will lend a hand but also keep his neighborhood intact.

“Well hold their feet to the fire to ensure that they improve their properties. It will also add some additional revenue,” said Chris Johnson, deputy tax commissioner.

Revenue that could be used as grants for those who need help cleaning, redevelopment, and demolition.

“City spends a substantial amount of money on demolition of blighted properties,” said Johnson.

It costs about $7,000 to tear down just one property and the city has about 300 on the waiting list. Hopeful six months to a year.

In Savannah, they did something similar. But property owners just didn’t pay. Their blight tax led to $1.6 million in unpaid fees. Augusta leaders are hopeful things will be different here.

June also marks homeownership month and Augusta-Richmond County Housing and Community Development is hosting a cleanup day. They’re teaming up with Keep Augusta Beautiful and several other organizations for the project and it starts 7:30 a.m. Thursday in Augusta’s Apple Valley subdivision.

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