- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
BY CHARLES RICHARDS
The Paris City Council tonight will discuss what to do about properties throughout the city that are overcome in weeds and high grass — and never get mowed unless the City of Paris itself does it.
City manager John Godwin has come up with two options for turning things around, and Mayor AJ Hashmi says he has a suggestion as well.
“Clean-up of the city is of grave importance to me,” Godwin told members of the council in a June12 workshop, during his first month on the job.
“Unless you provide a clean-looking city, it will appear that the people here do not care, and industry will not want to come here,” he said.
Like most other Texas cities, Paris has established certain standards for property maintenance. If a property owner fails to meet the standards, he is notified of the violation and given time to being the property into compliance.
Many property owners do in fact comply, but many others do not, Godwin noted.
In such cases, the city typically abates the nuisance itself.
This usually amounts to city workers mowing a property, or contracting with a private company to do the mowing. Once work is complete, the city bills the property owner for the work, including an administrative fee – which amounts to a sort of fine.
The council will be presented three options tonight, one of which is to continue under the present policy, in which the property owner is given no flexibility on payment of the code liens.
Godwin is opposed to that.
“The city has got to come up with ways to get some these properties back on the tax roll. If the city just keeps mowing these lots forever and you keep piling liens on them forever, nothing’s going to change,” city manager John Godwin said in a recent interview with eParisExtra!
“We have to do something to get property in the hands of private property owners who are going to take care of the property. Whatever we can do to make that happen, I’m for.”
Human nature is for the city to insist that the property owner pay for the work that city workers did to maintain the property.
“You want to get your money back, but sometimes those liens get bigger and bigger and bigger, and it gets in the way of things,” Godwin said.
“Sometimes, it makes sense to say, ‘You know what, if you’ll pay 10 cents on the dollar, we’ll get rid of the lien so you can start mowing this every week instead of us going on forever.”
Flexibility with the code liens might help the property sell and return to the tax roll and productive use, Godwin said.
In other places he has worked, Godwin said, he “just made those decisions on my own” to provide a property owner an option that might help the property to sell and return to the tax roll and productive use.
One of the two options to allowing the liens to grow is for the council to authorize the city manager to waive any or all of owed amounts as the specific situation dictates, Godwin said.
A second option for the council, the city manager said, is for the council to reserve that right for itself on a case-by-case basis.
Hashmi agrees the city should do what it can to get these properties back on the tax roll, but he has a problem with either the manager or the council deciding on a case-by-case basis which liens to write off and which to not write off.
“Someone will complain that the manager ‘wrote this person’s lien off, but not mine.’ Neither do I want to be in the position of being told, ‘You know, this was Dr. Hashmi’s friend, and all of his liens got waived, and mine didn’t.’
The mayor said he would like an ordinance that would spell out when liens on a property could be forgiven, giving the property owner incentive to sell the property and get the property back on the tax roll.
Hashmi does have a proposal for the 115 properties the city already owns as a result of having seized because of non-payment by the owners of liens and taxes.
He would like for the city to offer for sale at public auction all 115 of the properties – “taxes abated and clear of all liens,” provided the owner keep the property for at least one year.
To discourage someone interested in buying property cheaply, then turning around and selling to someone else for a profit, Hashmi said he would propose that the liens be put back on anyone selling within the first year.
“Also, the lien will be put right back on if you don’t comply with city code,” Hashmi said.
Neighbors would have the right of first refusal.
“If there are two or more neighbors interested in the property, the bidding would be limited to them. If the neighbors are not interested, then it goes to a public open auction,” Hashmi said.
“The property must go onto the tax roll immediately for the amount of the purchase price at auction, but buyers would be rewarded for any improvements.
“The reward would be, if you build on that property – suppose you build a house or whatever — you will be given the money back that you paid for the lot. If you bought it for $250, you would get that $250 back,” Hashmi said.
“Further, for five years, you would have an abatement for five years on any improvements made. For five years, you would pay taxes only on the lot, not for what is built on it,” the mayor added. “The abatement would go to the first owner of the property for the first five years.”
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