SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - An ordinance to make owners of blighted properties around Savannah pay more in taxes had a first reading before Savannah City Council on Thursday.
The Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Ordinance proposes that owners not willing to comply with city standards, with uninhabitable properties, will pay seven times the base property tax rate until they improve or get rid of the property.
For years council has sought to adopt some kind of ordinance that gives their blight reduction efforts teeth. Many say this is a step in the right direction.
WTOC knew this ordinance was being looked at back in December, and Thursday, with the first reading, council members made sure to ask for a little clarification on some of the language. There has been concern among citizens according to some council members that this ordinance would force impoverished homeowners out. But the city wants to make sure that people understand that this ordinance is meant to go after those absentee owners, with chronically blighted properties, not the homeowner who's down on their luck and barely making ends meet.
"I want to remind council that there are grants available to assist the poor and elderly. Also, there are community organizations that are out there as well that will hopefully partner with the city to address such issues," said Savannah City Manager Stephanie Cutter.
A city spokesperson said back in December that they expect 50 to 60 properties to qualify as a chronically blighted property under this ordinance.