The Savannah City Council held a special meeting Thursday to consider exercising the city’s eminent domain power made possible by 2017 changes to state law, which allow condemnation and redevelopment of terminally blighted properties.
The eminent domain resolution presented to Council, passed unanimously. It was the City’s first condemnation under the new law and used changes that were chief among city council’s legislative priorities last year.
The property, located at 226 Cumming Street, has accumulated a lengthy, unabated history of property maintenance code violations and deteriorated to a point that it is uninhabitable. Savannah Police Department data also revealed 112 reported crimes over the past decade in the immediate area.
Public records indicate the property is owned by the Estate of Janie Mae Holmes. Despite substantial efforts to identify and notify heirs and interest holders, city staff was unable to locate all potential interested parties. This situation, commonly referred to as “heirs’ property,” clouds the title making private sale difficult, if not impossible. One of Ms. Holmes’ grandsons appeared at the hearing and voiced his support for the condemnation.
As specified by Georgia state law, the city got an appraisal, which valued the property at $17,500. The request will now be submitted to the Superior Court of Chatham County as a condemnation action. The Superior Court will review the record and determine whether it considers the property to be blighted, as defined in the state code. Factors include the property’s condition and the presence of crime.
If the court deems the site blighted, the city will pay the appraised value into the registry of the court for distribution to proven interest holders and take the title.
Long term, the city intends to rely on the 2017 state law changes to purchase other blighted properties on Cumming Street and redevelop the corridor with affordable housing.
The city’s commitment to reduce blight aligns with the Savannah Forward Strategic Plan priorities of neighborhood revitalization and public safety.