Toccoa City Commission Talks Blighted Properties

Toccoa City Commissioners are turning their attention to the issue of blighted properties in the city limits.

During a work session Monday, city commissioners talked about how to proceed with cleaning up various blighted properties in the town limits.

Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson said that in a number of cases, there are legal issues surrounding blighted properties.

“Where we run into problems is that (with) many of these properties the owner died (and) there are multiple heirs,” said Jackson.  “The heirs are scattered all over the country and nobody knows about the problem.  Nobody cares and nobody takes charge.  In those cases, that is where we have to jump through all these legal hoops.”

Officials said that process can take 6 to 12 months and includes cost estimates to repair and rebuild and a title search going back many years.

In addition, city officials said that in some cases, the delinquent taxes owed on the blighted property are worth more than the property itself and as a result, the property is not sold at tax sale and it continues to just sit there.

Jackson did say there are some properties where there are no legal questions and on those, he said it is time to act.

“What we think we ought to do is get a list of those properties, get the ones and deal with, and start to deal with them,” said Jackson.  “You have to start somewhere.  Someone has to be first.”

Meanwhile, City Commissioner Gail Fry asked specifically about a Franklin Street property during the work session.

According to Jackson, the city reached an agreement with the property owner, Gerald Shedd, where the city would tear down the current structure and in return, Shedd would maintain the property and build a new house.

Jackson said the city is planning now move ahead with tearing down the blighted structure and he is hopeful that Shedd will rebuild.  The agreement does not specify a timeline for re-building.

Commissioner Terry Carter asked if the city has a policy for determining what properties the city would tear down at its expense and what properties the city would require the property owner to handle.

Jackson said no such policy exists.

However, Vice-Mayor Andy Pavliscsak said it was a unique case on Franklin Street.

“Homeless people entered that property and did so forcibly after our police department ordered the property owner to board the property up,” said Pavliscsak.  “Even after they entered it forcibly, we did not press charges and they destroyed the property.  That is the reason we entered the agreement.  It was a trade-off because we had some negligence in not protecting the property to begin with.”

Jackson said he would send a letter to Shedd informing him that the city is about ready to move on tearing down the current structure.