Cobb judge: Sprayberry Crossing has to clean up its act ... or else

This is a look at Sprayberry Crossing as of April 2017.

Credit: Cobb County Tax Assessor's Office

Credit: Cobb County Tax Assessor's Office

This is a look at Sprayberry Crossing as of April 2017.

A Cobb County judge has OK’d the county’s first effort to place a blight tax on a run-down property.

Sprayberry Crossing, which some citizens consider a 16-acre eyesore, will need to get in line with several requirements following the judge’s ruling, the county announced Monday.

The strip mall, on Sandy Plains Road, has five commercial buildings, one of which is a now-closed bowling alley that has “become dilapidated and a magnet for unsavory activities,” the county said.

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The registered agent for the company that owns and pays taxes on the property, Sprayberry Crossing Partnership, is listed as an attorney. It’s common for companies to list attorneys as the agents when setting up businesses. A call to the attorney was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The improvement requirements for the property owners range from adding “no loitering” signs, to the installation and maintenance of a security camera system within 15 days, and checking up once a week on illegal activity and property damage.

If they don’t comply, a blight tax will be added to the property until everything is in order.

The blight tax, which increases the owner's property taxes seven-fold, was approved by the county commission in June 2017 to target rental properties and businesses. Sprayberry Crossing was the first property targeted under the new ordinance.

There is a half-acre cemetery that is nearly 150 years old just behind the shopping center, The AJC previously reported. A landmark Georgia Supreme Court case in 1975 ruled that the shopping area could build close to the cemetery.

The Mayes Family Cemetery looks out onto the run-down Sprayberry Crossing shopping center and has been swallowed up by commercial development in northern Cobb County. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Credit: Johnny Crawford/AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Johnny Crawford/AJC

The current structures near the cemetery are grandfathered, but the resting place complicates development prospects for anyone who were to buy the shopping center property.

Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who voted for the blight tax and represents district where the strip mall lies, said she would have preferred the building be demolished.

“... The county is doing everything within its ability under the code to address the concerns related to this property and will continue to monitor conditions,” she said in a release.

If the property goes back into compliance, it will be eligible for a reduction in taxes for a maximum of two years, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported when the blight tax was passed.

Read about Atlanta’s anti-blight efforts and how they struggle with absentee landlords and shell companies that consider such penalties the cost of doing business.

In January, Powder Springs joined Kennesaw and Austell as cities that also carry a septuple blight tax like the county.

According to the county’s announcement Monday, Sprayberry Crossing must:

• install and maintain adequate lighting on all sides of the building within 15 days of the order;

• install and maintain a camera security system within 15 days;

• post “No loitering allowed” and “You are being video recorded” signs in conspicuous and prominent locations within 15 days of the court order;

• provide an engineer’s report detailing the proper repairs required to correct the safety & structural issues created by the canopy’s removal within 30 days of the court order;

• complete the repairs in the engineer’s report;

• have a representative or project manager visit the site at least once per week to inspect for illegal activity & property damage and correct issues within 48 hours;

• remove litter within 48 hours;

• promptly respond to development inspections or code enforcement issues;

• install fencing around the perimeter of the building to prevent passage onto the property.

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