First properties cited under Savannah’s new blight ordinance

From City of Savannah:

The City of Savannah’s Property Maintenance Department will send out 64 letters this week to property owners in Savannah whose properties meet the definition of chronically blighted under the Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Ordinance. This is the first round of properties cited under the Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Ordinance. Each of the 64 properties has an extensive history of non-compliance with the City’s Property Maintenance Ordinance.

City Council adopted the Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive, sometimes referred to as the “blight tax,” in February as another tool to combat blight in Savannah. It is designed to target property owners who leave properties in blighted conditions for extended periods of time, and to incentivize the rehabilitation of neglected property. City Property Maintenance Staff has been working with the City Attorney’s Office, Revenue Department, and Recorder’s Court on implementation since the adoption of the Ordinance.

The Ordinance was created under the premise that property owners should not benefit from lower tax bills resulting from lower property valuations that stem from chronic neglect. Under the ordinance, the City’s portion of the property tax bill for the blighted property will be increased by multiplying the City’s millage rate by 7.

Owners can get their properties removed from the list by correcting the property maintenance violations. Once the blighted designation is lifted, the property then becomes eligible for a decreased rate of taxation. At such time, the City’s normal millage rate will be cut in half for up to four years.

To qualify under the Ordinance, a property must meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Uninhabitable, unsafe, or abandoned structure;
  • Inadequate provisions for rain, ventilation, light, air, or sanitation;
  • An imminent harm to life or other property caused by fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, storm, or other natural catastrophe respecting which the governor has declared a state of emergency under the state law or has certified the need for disaster assistance under federal law; provided, however, this division shall not apply to property unless the relevant public agency has given notice in writing to the property owner regarding specific harm caused by the property and the owner has failed to take reasonable measures to remedy the harm;
  • A site identified by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency as a superfund site pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 9601, et seq., or having environmental contamination to an extent that requires remedial investigation or a feasibility study;
  • Repeated illegal activity on the individual property of which the property owner knew or should have known; or
  • The maintenance of the property is below state, county, or municipal codes for at least one year after written notice of the code violation to its owner; and
  • It is conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, or crime in the immediate proximity of the property.

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