September 23, 2012

Dalton to unveil makeover plan Tuesday

Charles Oliver

— Some Dalton City Council members have made it clear they think the city’s appearance needs to be improved. And last month, city officials announced a plan called the Carpet Capital Makeover to deal with foreclosed and abandoned buildings to keep them from becoming eyesores.

On Tuesday, Dalton residents will get to find out more about the details of that plan and to let council members know what they think about it. The council will hold a special called meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall devoted solely to the plan.

“This meeting is really for the public. The council has already looked at the plan, but the mayor wanted to have a public hearing before we moved forward,” said City Administrator Ty Ross.

Ross said council members hope to get a large turnout for the meeting, especially from those in the real estate business. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions about the plan and comment on it.

Ross will give an overview of the plan and the reason why the council asked him to develop it. Ross has said the plan has three elements:

1. Increased building code enforcement to keep minor issues from developing into large ones.

2. Keeping a close eye on foreclosed and abandoned properties and maintaining a list of priority properties.

3. Abatement and redevelopment. Ross said the General Assembly passed a law earlier this year giving local governments greater powers to create “land banks” and use them to redevelop surplus properties.

The first part of the plan calls for the Dalton Police Department to step up its code enforcement efforts. Police Chief Jason Parker will speak Tuesday on the department’s current code enforcement efforts and what it would require for them to take on the responsibilities envisioned by the plan.

Sara Toering, a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, and Christopher Norman, executive director of the Fulton County/City of Atlanta Land Bank Authority, will give presentations on land banks.

A land bank is a government authority that manages and develops property that a government has foreclosed on or that has been donated to the government. City officials are looking at forming a land bank to acquire abandoned properties so they can be cleaned up and sold.

Why will Tuesday’s meeting focus so much on land banks?

“Some people don’t understand what a land bank is. They hear the term land bank and they think it’s about eminent domain and the government seizing someone’s property, and that’s not what it is at all,” Ross said.

Amy Henderson, public information manager for the Georgia Municipal Association, says that under state law land banks do not have the power to take property under eminent domain.

“The law is very clear on that,” she said.

Henderson says that, like any other government authority, a land bank would set its own budget and hire its own staff and could borrow money.