City shifts site focus for NSP

COVINGTON - City officials want to change the site that will benefit from federal funds received through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed and blighted properties.

The city originally identified Jefferson Village, located off Puckett Street within the Nelson Heights community, as the beneficiary of the funds, but planners told the council Monday night that the Harristown area may be a more appropriate fit.

The city has been notified it will receive about $428,000 through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which was created by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and is being administered on the state level by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The money available to local governments can be used to demolish and redevelop blighted properties and for non-residential purposes, such as the creation of parks.

The city is partnering with Builders of Hope, a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina for the rehabilitation project. Representatives with Builders of Hope have indicated they are more interested in working in the Harristown area, which is located downtown along Reynolds, Emory, Ivy and Hendricks streets and Lunsford Circle.

Senior Planner Michelle Larsen said there are 105 parcels within that area and potentially only one foreclosure.

"If we are able to shift the focus of the NSP money on to Harristown, we would be using the blight criteria and not the foreclosure," she said.

Larsen told the council she hoped for a smooth transition with DCA, since the county also included Harristown on its application as an area that might benefit from its share of the money.

The city was required to have the county's blessing on its application, and since county officials have already identified Harristown as an area of interest, there should be few hang-ups, she said.

In related news, the city will soon have an urban redevelopment ordinance, which will set guidelines on how to redevelop and rehabilitate properties. The ordinance should be in place by about mid-May, Larsen said.

Finally, local land planner Randy Vinson has been hired as the city's new interim planning and zoning director. Former director Shelley Stiebling left in mid-March.

Mayor Kim Carter said Vinson was hired because of his vast knowledge and experience. Vinson previously served as planning director for Newton County and oversaw public projects such as Turner Lake Park and private developments such as Clark's Grove.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.