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Covington moves forward with blight tax

COVINGTON, Ga. - Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said around 60 houses within the city of Covington could possibly be considered blighted property under a new ordinance the city council has agreed to move forward on to clean up the city.

The first reading of a new Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Program ordinance, also known as a “Blight Tax,” was unanimously approved by the council Monday evening during its regular council meeting.

The proposed ordinance would implement a tax seven times the city’s millage rate on blighted property. The taxes collected under the blight tax can be used only for community redevelopment purposes.

City Attorney Frank Turner said the increase is consistent with other cities that have implemented the tax.

“Hit them where it hurts, in the pockets,” Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said.

Knight said the city could see an increase of about $42,000 in tax revenue after the implementation of the tax.

She said on a house that has a value of $38,000 – which is about average for the houses that would be considered blight in the city – the regular tax collected is $119 a year. With the blight tax, that would go up to $833 a year.

Property owners have the ability to remove the blight designation to their properties and receive a tax reduction through remediation.

The council will vote on the second reading during its July 23 meeting.

What is Blight?

“Blighted property, blighted, or blight” means any urbanized or developed property which:

1. Presents two or more of the following conditions:

a. Uninhabitable, unsafe, or abandoned structure;

b. Inadequate provisions for ventilation, light, air, or sanitation;

c. 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;

d. 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;

e. Repeated illegal activity on the individual property of which the property owner knew or should have known; or

f. 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

2. Is conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, or crime in the immediate proximity of the property.   Property shall not be deemed blighted solely because of aesthetic conditions.