Another questionable property deal by city of Savannah, this one involving a blighted building owned by a state senator’s family

August 6, 2014 12:34 pm

by Bill Dawers · 4 comments

Would you consider this building to be an eyesore?

State Senator Lester Jackson doesn’t seem to like that term. Chatham County lists the owners as Jackson’s parents, although his father passed a couple of years ago. Bizarrely, the fair market value of the building increased from 2012 to 2013, but the property owners found exemptions so that they paid zero property taxes to the county in 2013. [UPDATE: New reporting in the Savannah Morning News that raises even more questions has established that there was “a hardship exemption” from paying taxes last year and that the increase in fair market value by the County was from “an update last year to the cost tables the county uses to calculate construction costs.”]

Because of safety concerns, the city of Savannah initiated a process that would lead to a pretty quick demolition, and now the Savannah Morning News is reporting that the city is poised to purchase the property from Jackson’s family for a so-far-undisclosed sum.

If you’ve been following the city of Savannah’s property purchases, you already know that the last thing the city needs is to own more vacant and blighted property. In this case, after years of failing to force the owners to improve or sell the property, the city seems ready to reward Senator Jackson’s family. It will obviously be interesting to see how this plays out. I have more details and links in a post at Savannah Unplugged.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lawton Sack August 7, 2014 at 12:57 am

Just as an update, the building was torn down later Wednesday afternoon after this was posted. It looks like the City of Savannah is still looking to purchase the property, though they plan to deduct the demolition costs from the final purchase price. According to the story by WSAV3, the City of Savannah has been trying to get something done to the building since 2008.

WSAV3 Story: http://www.wsav.com/story/26217229/savannahs-biggest-eyesore-demolished-city-says-property-owners-must-pay

Bill Dawers August 7, 2014 at 8:55 am

Yes, the building came down yesterday afternoon.

I would argue, however, that since the city has — according to Senator Jackson — been pursuing the purchase of the property for “years” and since the property owners had essentially zero tax liability, any attempts by the city to force the owners to improve the property or to sell it at market rate were short-circuited by the extended negotiations.

It simply is not the role of Savannah city government to buy blighted properties that are not needed for governmental use. The city has a variety of tools to force owners to maintain their properties. Offering to buy a blighted property at a higher price than the open market will support just to get the owners out of the picture? Ridiculous.

drjay August 7, 2014 at 8:59 am

how is this not a win/win for everyone? seems pretty reasonable really…

Bill Dawers August 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

So the city of Savannah will own a vacant piece of land, purchased with tax money at a higher price than the market will support, with no plan for using it? How is that a win for the city?

Getting rid of the building is a win for the city, but if we are going to have a policy of buying blighted properties so that we can eliminate the blight, property owners have a clear incentive to sit tight, let the properties crumble, and draw out negotiations with the city about the price.