Memphis Mayor Looking To Nashville For Help In Fighting Blight

(Memphis) The old Executive Inn on Airways has become a poster child for blight in Memphis.

It’s sat empty for years.

The city cleaned it up and fenced it off, but the eyesore belongs to an out-of-town LLC, that won’t tear it down and has kept it tied up in court over hundreds of thousand of dollars owed in back taxes.

“These absentee owners, in many instances these corporate entities, they don’t live here. They don’t have to see it everyday. They just thumb their noses at us,” says Memphis Mayor AC Wharton.

It’s why Wharton is hoping lawmakers in Nashville will back a law that allows the city to wipe off back taxes and let a community development corporation or non-profit buy the property and fix it up.

“If we find a way to get these taxes out of the way, there are some folks who will come in and rehab and get it back on the market,” says Wharton.

At an Environmental Team meeting Thursday morning, city and county leaders went over the plan as well as other problem properties.

City leaders say often their hands are tied in the blight fight.

If back taxes are too high, possible buyers of abandoned properties walk away.

The new bill would do way with back taxes, to get things moving.

The city already has lawmakers to  sponsor the bill and hopes it passes this session.

“It is bipartisan. I just hope we will not have substantial opposition to it,” says Wharton.

One concern that may come up, those back taxes that are wiped out would have funded education.

Mayor Wharton says in many cases the taxes aren’t being paid anyway.

So getting the eyesores back up and running means tax dollars can once again start coming in.

The city is also using citizens to help fight blight.

A volunteer Code Enforcement Officers Program is being organized and will use citizen volunteers to identify and report code violations in their community.

The first meeting is Monday, February 10th at 10 a.m. at the Benjamin Hooks Library.

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