Savannah leaders looking at eminent domain to address chronically blighted property

Savannah leaders looking at eminent domain to address chronically blighted property

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The City of Savannah is looking to eminent domain as it tries to find a solid solution for the continuing issue of blighted properties.

Using eminent domain laws may sound extreme, but some city leaders believe the effort to tax irresponsible property owners into taking action won't work well enough.

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach and other city leaders plan to appeal to the local state delegation to get the law changed this next legislative session, to help people living next to these dilapidated properties.

"Write the law any way you want to write the law that makes any logical sense, and cut it off or sunset it, I don't care what you do. But give us an opportunity as a city, and other cities have the same situation, I'm not by myself I'm sure," said Mayor DeLoach.

DeLoach believes the Blight Tax will work on only some of the blighted property owners, and only the ones they can find.

"But if you can't isolate that person and find that person that's involved in that...which is what we're running into won't be able to get the taxes from that guy until he sells the house. Well, all these folks have to continue to live there until something else happens," said DeLoach. "Whatever it takes to get these places cleaned up for the people who live here, we need to do it."

The mayor says the city is not, and should not be in the real estate business. But if eminent domain could be used, he envisions the home or plot being converted to something like public housing and built by students or members of an apprenticeship program.

The president of the West Savannah Community Organization believes in the mayor's plan and even thinks the accountability for blighted property owners should go a step further.

"We need to put pressure on these landlords, if a house needs painting, then they should be out here painting the house. It's not the tenants' responsibility to paint the house. If you ride through this area, a lot of this rental property needs some work done to it," said Ronald Williams.

For the time being, a significant hike in property taxes is all that can be imposed on chronically blighted houses.

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