City eyeing eminent domain for blighted properties, may need state level action

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SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Fixing up abandoned properties in Savannah is an ongoing battle. Now mayor Eddie Deloach is considering using eminent domain in that fight.

The one road block for using eminent domain to take blighted properties, it’s against state law if they would turn the homes over to private use or sale.

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating there’s got to be close to a hundred properties they’ve got to be,” says West Savannah neighborhood president Ron Williams.

There are more than twenty properties in west Savannah on the city’s worst blighted property list. For neighborhood leader Ron Williams it’s a burden.

“I would say a lot of the properties that some people are living in, they shouldn’t be living in,” says Williams

The city this year alone approved a new blight tax and has it’s development authority working to revive and rent homes one along MLK Jr. boulevard. Now mayor Eddie Deloach wants to bring back a tool used by past administrations, eminent domain.

“That is the issue I am pushing right now because we haven’t been able to do that and we want to do a concentrated area where we can make a difference in the community,” says the mayor.

Seize properties that are not to be used by the city violates HB 1313.

“Using eminent domain so we can get in there and move this stuff forward, they’ll tell you they want to move forward with it,” says Deloach referring neighborhood leaders.

Williams is in the group that likes the idea.

“I welcome any plan that will beautify and make is a clean and safe environment to live in and we’re long overdue of trying to get something done out here.”

He wants to weigh every option, though, before trying to change the law. He asks the city look hard at loan programs as well as redoing their canvassing for blighted properties around the city.

“I have been trying to workout something where we can take a tour a trolley tour of every street in West Savannah and find out each blighted property we see, find out, get a list of all of and found out who the owners are.”

Before the 2006 law went into affect on local eminent domain, the city had more than 76 projects going on to fix lots or do infill construction on parts of town. That law cut the program back, now it has only 21 projects and more than $3 million dollars left the program according to the city. Mayor Deloach says he is working with the local house delegations chair Rep. Ron Stephens on if they need to create legislation to restore the power to the city. The mayor wants to make it so the city has that ability before the end of the 2017 legislative session.

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