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Committee sends resolution to spur redevelopment to council

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From left, Mike Mathews, director of public safety, looks over a draft resolution while City Councilor Judy Stubbs addresses other Legal Committee members on Thursday afternoon. Councilor Savino Sanchez sits next to Stubbs. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The Roswell City Council’s legal committee has approved a resolution to waive municipal property liens for potential developers.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman explained that if a developer approaches the city about a property with a lien, the resolution would allow the city to enter into an agreement with developers — with plans for infilling vacant lots, with construction plans — within a certain time limit. Holloman said the city has been approached in the past by developers who were put off by the amount of a lien, which in some cases could be more than the property value.

Many of the liens have been placed on properties the city has had to intervene and clean up.

“Having spent a lot of time looking at those liens, we want to be able to get the money back that we are putting into cleaning up properties if we can …” Holloman said. “So if we can find a way to stop any impediments to get that property back, kind of into circulation, we want to do that.”

City Councilor Barry Foster made the motion to approve the resolution and Savino Sanchez seconded. The measure carried unanimously and the full council will have a chance to vote on it Oct. 11.

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For clarification, Sanchez asked if this applied to citizens and Holloman confirmed this, if the citizen is interested in developing the property. Councilor Foster asked who has the final say on the agreements and Holloman said it would be City Manager Joe Neeb. Foster and other committee members amended the language of the resolution to specify the city manager has the final say.

“We want to develop the community — I mean as far as the neighborhoods — instead of allowing empty lots to sit there,” Sanchez said. Mike Mathews, public safety director, said as this development happens the new houses being built will be up to code, and he sees this as a benefit. Foster said it will encourage developers who will buy new materials locally.

Councilor George Peterson said he was concerned that waiving the lien would be “subjective” and based on whether a property was on the north or south side of town. Sanchez said the location would be in the hands of the builders and Foster said the city manager would be accountable to the city council if they noticed a pattern. Foster said he knows first-hand that some realtors try to push people to move north in Roswell. Sanchez said he was curious as to which parts of the city have the most vacant lots.

Councilor Judy Stubbs, chair of the committee, said the intent is to encourage infill within the city.

Stubbs read a section in the resolution: before approving construction the city will consider surrounding buildings, the character of the neighborhood, zoning and other relevant factors to make sure such a structure is appropriate. Foster and Stubbs added that it will depend on individual cases on a lot-by-lot basis.

Holloman said there are some instances of case law where liens are only good for four years, but he said there is a process to release the liens. “We had a quarter of a million dollars from 2014 to 2017 in liens,” Holloman said. “So those are the ones we are looking at enforcing on right now, just so we are not waiting on them. It’s more than you might think.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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