City funds widespread demolition, but it still takes time
by Eric Johnson
Recently, the Augusta Commission allocated $500,000 for the demolition of 188 dilapidated properties across the city, and though the money helps the city remove dangerous and unsightly properties, it doesn’t ensure that the removal will be speedy.
Like anything else involving government agencies, there is a lot of bureaucracy involved.
Before the court can issue a demolition order, for example, the city has to order a title search, which it can’t always afford.
According to Development Manager Rob Sherman, the city budgets $150 per property for the title search. The search can take two or three weeks, depending on how many they send out, though Sherman says they never send more than 30 at one time.
The city also has to request an asbestos survey for each property it wants to demolish, which comes with its own cost in money and time.
“That’s where we are right now,” Sherman says of the properties on the commission’s list. “We’ve sent them all over to get the survey done, and then we should be getting the 28 or 29 that we asked them to do first.”
Most of the properties slated for demolition are in Districts 1 and 2.
Sherman says that a portion of the $500,000 will pay for the surveys and the rest will go toward the demolitions themselves, which average about $5,000 per property.
After the surveys are completed, the properties slated for demolition will be put out for bid. Once the city gives the notice to proceed, the successful bidder then has to notify the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that they’re going to be doing a demolition, and if the building has asbestos in it, they’ve got to file an application with EPD for the asbestos abatement.
Only after the asbestos is finally removed can the demolition crews knock the building down and haul it off.
The properties on the commission’s list were all approved by the courts for demolition, meaning they were clearly beyond rehabilitation
“Generally, the owners have back taxes that are due because generally the property owners have abandoned the property,” Sherman says. “It’s just not serving any purpose and it can’t be occupied or rented. There’s no value.”
Even if someone wanted to get in compliance with the code so a property could be occupied again, they’d probably be spending more money than the house would be worth, which is why so many are left to deteriorate.
With the demolition complete, the city sends the property owner a bill and records a lien against the property.
If the property happens to be in an area experiencing redevelopment, an interested buyer can purchase the property through the Land Bank, which Sherman says is much more efficient than buying it on the courthouse steps, where the buyer has to wait a full year in order to give the property owner the chance to come in and pay the back taxes and liens.
“Even then, the buyer still has to foreclose on the lien,” Sherman says.
Going through the Land Bank, an interested buyer simply fills out an application asking the Land Bank to consider foreclosing on the liens. Then, they put down a deposit, show their plan for the property and wait for the Land Bank to foreclose.
By going through the Land Bank, they get a clear title in roughly 60 days or so, Sherman says.You Might Also Like: