SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Savannah city leaders are already beginning the process of how to properly use eminent domain to fight blighted properties city-wide.
It was a goal by the DeLoach administration at the beginning of the year to scale back regulations in cities to use the power to takeover and resale abandoned homes.
“This is not somebody trying to take any property from anybody, it’s us trying to improve the neighborhoods,” says the mayor.
Mayor DeLoach has considered eminent domain the only option to fight blight. Using it was a key tool in previous administrations, but it has since come to a hault since a 2004 state law forced cities to hold on to properties for 20 years.
“All the major cities that have this same issue that we have are excited about the fact that they can take their communities back,” the mayor adds.
Governor Nathan Deal has approved the new eminent domain law allowing cities in Georgia to take vacant homes after proper notice has been given to the owners…the city can then sell the property in a shorter span of time than before.
“A clean environment is a safe environment, so if we can get rid of the blight and clean up somewhat I think that will be good.”
It’s a power Ron Williams and neighbors in West Savannah think can improve streets like Cumming that has more than a dozen blighted homes.
“We’re all for decreasing blight in our neighborhoods, but we don’t want to take homes and property away from families. so if they have some measure where, homeowners of the original home that they have the right to buy that property back,” says state Sen. Lester Jackson.
Not everyone is for it. Senator Lester Jackson voted “no” on the bill saying allowing the city to sell the land after five years is too soon. The city is moving forward nonetheless and a pilot program is on their agenda.
“People in West Savannah are ready, they’re ready for a change. you have people who have beautiful homes out there but when they walk out their doors they see blight and boarded up houses,” says Williams.
You can take a look at the law here. Mayor DeLoach plans to show neighbors how they plan to use the power by the end of the year.