Hogansville council votes to pass blight ordinance

Published 8:18 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2018

HOGANSVILLE — After a brief discussion, the Hogansville City Council voted unanimously to pass a blighted property ordinance at Monday’s meeting.

The ordinance allows the council to increase the ad valorem tax by applying a factor of three times the millage rate on any property deemed blighted. The council had originally left the tax factor undecided, but council member Reginald Jackson suggested an increased rate of three times and the council agreed. Monday night’s meeting was the second reading of the ordinance, which refers to only unoccupied dwellings.

“There can’t be any tenants there. There can’t be anyone living there,” said City Manager David Milliron said. “The city has other mechanisms to address occupied ordinances through code enforcement, but the blight tax applies to unoccupied blighted properties by definition.”

Any property deemed blighted must meet two of six conditions. Those include being uninhabitable or unsafe; not having adequate provisions for ventilation, light, air or sanitation; an imminent harm to life or property caused by a natural disaster; having environmental contamination as identified by the Environmental Protection Agency; repeated illegal activity; or maintenance of the property is below state, county or municipal codes for at least one year after written notice of the code to the owner. The property can also be deemed blighted if it is conducive to ill health or the transmission of disease.

Council member Fred Higgins first made a motion to pass the ordinance, but Jackson asked that the council reduce the tax factor to three times the amount owned, instead of seven times. Seven times had been used as a placeholder and was used in the Georgia Municipal Association’s sample ordinance.

“There’s nothing magical about the number seven,” said City Attorney Jeff Todd. “If you choose to adopt it with another number, we can make that change on the fly tonight. It’s only one place in the ordinance.”

The tax only refers to city tax, not county taxes. The increased ad valorem tax will be applied on the first tax bill following a blighted designation, according to the ordinance.