Program created to address blight

A new initiative targets blighted properties in DeKalb County.

DeKalb County officials may have some extra ammo in the fight to prevent blight in the county. The DeKalb Magistrate Court recently launched a new initiative to help clean up blight and prosecute those responsible for it.

Chief DeKalb Magistrate Judge Berryl Anderson announced the formation of a new court effort to remediate blight issues Aug. 30.

Under the new initiative, judges will meet once per month to hear cases in which properties have been cited for multiple citations by DeKalb County Code Enforcement without corrective measures being taken by property owners.

Supervising Ordinance judge Hollie Manheimer, along with Judges September Guy and Matthew McCoyd, will hear these cases. The three judges were appointed by Anderson in May 2015 after the responsibility for ordinance violations in DeKalb County was shifted by statute to the Magistrate Court, according to county officials.

According to county officials, the key difference with the treatment of these cases is if the owner does not repair or demolish as required, the county will be allowed to tear down these properties at county expense.

DeKalb County can then collect the costs of demolition from the property owner.  

From left, DeKalb County Magistrate Court judges Matthew McCoyd, Hollie Manheimer and September Guy.

From left, DeKalb County Magistrate Court judges Matthew McCoyd, Hollie Manheimer and September Guy.

“We have long been plagued in DeKalb County with problems created by these troublesome properties,” Anderson said. “In the past, there was not much that could be done unless the properties’ owners could be found. This initiative allows the county to move forward with taking down these properties regardless of whether the owners respond to court orders. We can protect the rights of homeowners while making sure the neglect of their property does not undermine the quality of life in DeKalb.”

Under the new initiative, the group of judges heard their first cases on Aug. 24. Three of the 10 cases resulted in an order for demolition unless the property owner makes serious improvements.

Anderson said ordinance judges will be particularly sensitive to property rights of owners. According to Anderson, the judges will follow a strict procedural safeguard checklist to ensure that property rights are protected.  In each instance, notice is sent to all interested parties, including property owners, homeowners, mortgage holders and renters.

These hearings will be held on the third Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. at 3630 Camp Circle, Decatur in the Camp Circle Courthouse Complex, Courtroom E.  

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