Memphis council discusses blight initiative, Beale St control - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis council discusses blight initiative, Beale St control

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Do you have a run-down house on your street? With more than 40,000 problem properties in the city, chances are you do.

Memphis city council discussed a new program to help tackle that problem, among other issues.

If passed by the full council this blight program could be a real opportunity for people who want to invest in their neighborhood while getting rid of blight.

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If you see a run down house, chances are the owner is delinquent on property taxes. This program applies to those homes. It allows someone to buy that house, and pay all the back taxes. The buyer would then get that tax money back as a grant to repair the home and bring it up to code.

There are strings attached as the repairs have to be done in a short window of time. The buyer cannot turn around and immediately sell the house, although it could be rented out.

Councilman Jim Strickland proposed the plan to help clean up some of the blighted areas of Memphis. Mayor A C Wharton said this is a win-win for the city.

"We're not having to go out every month, board the house up, run the vandals out, cut the weeds," Mayor Wharton said. "So we do come out a winner."

The mayor also points to the higher tax assessment that will come to the city after the home is brought up to standard with a new tax paying owner.

Also discussed at Tuesday's council meeting, the city moving forward after the long legal battle to regain control of Beale Street. The city is going to have to pay off a $600,000 debt to Wells Fargo for financing improvements to Handy Park.

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The city thinks it can do this with proceeds from Beale street rather than going into the general fund. Then, the city will soon send out a request for proposal for a management company to come in and run Beale Street and Handy Park for the city.

A lengthy lawsuit with Performa, who had been managing the street, is coming to a close. The city will run Beale Street until a management team can be chosen.

Some on the council though, want to be careful that any management contract have oversight of the council members.

"I don't want to see Beale Street get in a situation like this again where its outside of our control," said Councilman Lee Harris. "what happens to that asset for a long period of time and the only way we can get control back is go to court and have long-term litigation."

Additionally, council has a $29 million system to electronically vote. It's been going well. Tuesday evening after connecting it with the computer system, a big change occurred. The default vote became yes.

So if council members get up from your seat during a vote, they automatically recorded a yes vote. This did not go over well, so they decided not to use the $29 million system and just do old fashioned voice votes all night.

There is no word if this will be fixed for the next meeting.

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