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VOL. 127 | NO. 236 | Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Council Ordinance Addresses Blight

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members take a final vote Tuesday, Dec. 4, on an ordinance that requires property owners to keep their names and mailing addresses on record with the city.

A Memphis City Council ordinance would make it easier for the city to determine the owners of vacant properties, such as this one near Jefferson Avenue and North Watkins Street.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The proposal, up for third and final reading, is designed to make it easier for the city to determine the ownership of vacant or abandoned property and notify the owners of code violations and serve them with legal notice should the city take them to court for the violations.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and his administration have targeted owners of neglected properties with a series of lawsuits. But the administration’s efforts have had to contend with layers of names before getting the names of the real owners. And then sometimes there are multiple owners with the ownership being split among several financial institutions.

The ordinance also deals with such complex transactions that are the aftermath of foreclosure.

It covers property that has been “the subject of a foreclosure sale where the title was transferred by the mortgagee or its agent or when any property is transferred under a deed in lieu of foreclosure/sale, or quit claim deed, or by transfer, whether filed with the register of deeds or not and upon transfer of ownership upon death of a prior owner.”

If there is a change in that status, it must be reported to the city within 10 days.

There is also a default registry that requires accurate contact information on a mortgagee or agent for the mortgagee who can be contacted by the city if there is a notice of default or a vacancy.

There is an annual registration fee of $200 per property and violating the ordinance comes with a $500 fine after a decision in General Sessions Environmental Court.

The revenue from the fees and fines goes to the city office of code enforcement for anti-blight efforts.

At a 9:30 a.m. committee session, council members will discuss a proposal to sell the old Whitehaven public library, 4122 Barton Drive, for $1 to the nonprofit Alpha Memphis Education Foundation Inc.

The foundation would renovate the building.

Council members get a closer look during an 11 a.m. committee session at the realignment of Memphis police precincts by Police Director Toney Armstrong.

Armstrong announced in October that he would realign the nine existing precincts to spread resources more evenly among them and equalize the number of calls for service each area gets.

The realignment is expected to cut the size or divide the Old Allen station in Frayser and Raleigh, which has the most calls of any precinct. Armstrong’s plan is also expected to change the boundaries of the Ridgeway Station, which has the fewest calls of any precinct.

Armstrong also wants to decentralize nine bureaus in investigative services so that the bureaus have offices in each of the realigned precincts. All 12 bureaus in investigative services now work out of police department headquarters at the Criminal Justice Center.

Also during committee sessions Tuesday morning, council members will talk over a proposed interlocal agreement between the city and the Shelby County Trustee’s office for the trustee to collect property taxes for the city.

Several trustees going back to the late Bob Patterson have proposed such an arrangement but the idea of taking the function from the City Treasurer’s office has never been carried out over several mayoral administrations at City Hall.

Current County Trustee David Lenoir has pitched the idea repeatedly to Wharton since Lenoir won election to the post in 2010, but until now Wharton and his administration have not responded.

A memo to council members in advance of the committee session estimates the arrangement would cost the city $1.25 million.

The resolution being considered by the council authorizes the mayor to begin discussions with the trustee. Any draft agreement would come to the City Council for approval at a later date.

PROPERTY SALES 0 291 21,272
MORTGAGES 0 160 16,194
BUILDING PERMITS 258 692 41,920
BANKRUPTCIES 1 117 6,579