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No vacancy in Stockbridge

City Council moves to keep up foreclosed properties

By Rachel Shirey

rshirey@henryherald.com

STOCKBRIDGE — The Stockbridge City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to create a registration and inspection program for vacant and foreclosed properties.

Council member at the Monday meeting said they expect ordinance is expected to deter crime, improve safety and decrease blight in neighborhoods.

City Administrator David Milliron said vacant structures are attractive targets for crime, especially copper theft and arson, and are a safety risk for police officers and firefighters.

But more than that, Mayor Mark Alarcon said it affects the overall beauty and cleanliness of the city.

There will be a $100 registration fee for property owners or lenders, but that fee didn’t appear to disenchant audience members, who nodded their heads in approval.

The city will begin handling all code enforcement issues April 1, and the city’s code enforcement officer will inspect the registered homes on a monthly basis. The county currently controls all code enforcement issues.

“It’s going to protect the property values of everyone,” said resident Kathryn Gilbert, who is also the homeowners’ association president for Windsong Plantation. “It’s going to keep the sort of vandalism that is attracted to vacant properties down.”

Gilbert addressed the council, exclaiming her approval of the ordinance, while other members of the audience nodded in agreement.

Anthony Ford, resident and homeowners’ association president for Monarch Village, also asked the council what local neighborhoods could do to assist with the project.

Gilbert said she hopes this ordinance will make it easier to clean properties after a tenant or owner has been evicted from the property.

She said it was an arduous process in the past to remove leftover trash, broken furniture and accumulated junk from the front yard of a foreclosed home in her neighborhood.

“Anything that’s left is essentially tossed out on the street and in the front yard,” Gilbert said. “And is there for as long as it takes the owner of the property, the bank in this instance, to get their property manager people to come clean it up.”

She said it can take up to two weeks for property managers to visit, and the neighborhood received complaints that the mess was a magnet for vandalism.

Gilbert’s homeowners’ association ended up hiring their own contractor to clean the property up.

“They've had issues, but only at a microcosm of what the city has had to deal with,” Alarcon said, adding that the new project will allow the city to better track those issues.