Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro city leaders want to know who owns foreclosed houses in the city, in case the buildings, and the property they occupy, become public eyesores.
The city council held preliminary discussions, earlier this week, on creating a "foreclosure registry." Property owners would have 30 days after their properties are foreclosed upon to register their information with the city.
Mayor Luther Maddox said it would cost $175 for a property owner to register the foreclosed property with the city, although he said that fee is meant to cover administrative costs associated with keeping the registry. The mayor added that people who do not register their property would face a fine of $1,000 per month until they register.
"What this does is, it gives us a way to contact people that own these vacant houses to make sure that they're kept up, and if not, we've got an address we can contact a person and we can get something done about it," Maddox said, during the council meeting on Monday.
The measure came before the council as a "first read" matter. After a few minutes of discussing how the registry would work, and how strong it could be, the council tabled further discussion, until next month.
Maddox said the city currently does not have a way of tracking to whom foreclosed properties belong, and, therefore, has a difficult time figuring out to whom to issue fines. He said the city's government does not even know how many foreclosed homes are located in the city limits.
Jonesboro would use the registry to go after property owners who let a foreclosed property grow into a state of disrepair, thus violating various city ordinances that stipulate how well a property must be maintained, Maddox said. "It gives us a way to enforce our ordinances that we have on the books now," he added.
The kind of property register being proposed in Jonesboro actually duplicates a piece of legislation, House Bill 110, that is currently being proposed in the Georgia General Assembly. The bill would also create a "vacant property registry," according to the general assembly's web site. The bill is being proposed by state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), according to Jonesboro City Councilman Clarence Mann.
The difference between the house bill, and Jonesboro's proposed ordinance, is that the state legislation would only set the registration fee at $25, and the fine would be $100, according to Mann.
The question of what impact the state's legislation would have on the city's proposed ordinance hung over the city council's discussions earlier this week. "If he [Jacobs] passes that bill, would it not supersede ours, since it would be state mandated?" Mann asked, during the council's discussions on Monday.
Maddox said the legislation would have some impact. "We'll just have to make sure ours goes along with state law," the mayor said. "He's still got to get his through the legislature, and we've got to get ours through the council here."