DeKalb County officials are taking blight head on with the new ordinance aimed at cleaning up blight in neighborhoods. Owners who fail to register their properties with the county’s Vacant Property Registry will face fines up to $1,000 under the county’s new ordinance.
Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May says the registry was established as a means to protect neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance and security of properties that are vacant.
“We stand here before an ugly, vacant property with liter all around, but we are excited. We are excited because this program will address some critical needs in DeKalb County,” said May, who was joined by several DeKalb officials at a press conference in Decatur’s Columbia Meadows to introduce the Vacant Property Registry on June 4. “This program is just one of the many tools in our toolbox to beautify DeKalb.”
Officials say there are about 10,000 vacant properties in unincorporated DeKalb.
“You look behind me and you see a nightmare. How can we turn this back into the American dream? We want you to buy a home in DeKalb but we want to make sure the property or property around it is not trashed or littered and this registry will help us get to that point,” said District 3 DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson. “We have to make sure we do everything we can to eradicate the blight in this area.”
The Vacant Property Registry ordinance requires the owners of vacant properties to provide the county with official contact information for the party or parties responsible for bringing the vacant property into compliance. Owners are required to register their vacant properties or face fines up to $1,000. The fee to register is $100.
The registry, took effect June 1. The county will begin issuing citations next month.
DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy says the vacant properties had to be addressed because they often lead to squatters, drug users, criminals and other unwanted people setting up shop in the vacant properties.
“Vacant properties present a unique challenge to us because when these properties are left unmanaged, they do attract crime and we have a difficult time tracking down owners in most cases as the crimes happen in progression,” said Chief Conroy. “Take this home for example. First windows are broken, then someone will use the property to spend the night, then you see evidence of drug use and now all the copper has been stripped out. With this ordinance, we can stop processes like that from occurring in the county.”