City Leaders enter early planning stages for Waynesboro blight tax

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WAYNESBORO, G.A. (WJBF)- The City of Waynesboro could soon crack down on dilapidated buildings.

The City’s council is considering a new tax that would penalize owners of those properties for not cleaning them up.

Downtown Waynesboro is growing. More businesses are coming to the area but there are concerns that buildings like the old Waynesboro Emporium could put a halt to the growth.

“No work has been done since then so it’s just sitting here falling apart,” said Don Lively.

Don Lively is the Director of Downtown Development. He’s talking about the Old Waynesboro Emporium, which he says has been abandoned for more than five years now.

“It was unbearable,” said Peggy White. She’s the owner of the Waynesboro Emporium.

Peggy White used to run her business out of that building. She says there were several maintenance issues, including a leaky roof.

“I was in the building for 24 years and he did no upkeep of the building and that’s what got us to that point and he still would not allow me to do it,” said White.

Since then, White has moved into a new building.

Now Waynesboro city council is looking to fix problems like this with a new blight tax that would penalize building owners for letting their properties fall into disrepair.

“We have known for a long time that there’s several buildings in our downtown that are falling apart frankly and need attention, and we’re not able to get the owners to do what they should do,” said Lively.

Lively says they came up with the idea after looking at what other cities did to combat blight.
He says homes could be subject to the tax as well.

He says, “If we write it correctly and depending on how we write it will address any blighted building in the city, because my focus is downtown, mine is more focused on commercial buildings, but the ordinance can be used for residents that are not taken care of too.”

Lively says part of the reason to implement the new tax is to keep the city looking decent, but that’s not the only reason.

“But it’s also commercial, we have businesses that want to come here but there’s not enough buildings to bring them in because some of the buildings being used are blighted,” said Lively.

Right now, the blight tax is still in the early planning stages. Lively says they’ll still need to meet with the city’s attorney to determine whether it’s legal or not.

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