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Proposed registry hot topic of forum

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS -- Area real estate professionals showed up Tuesday morning to speak on the pending ordinance that will create a countywide foreclosure registry in Rockdale County.

The ordinance was scheduled for a first reading during Tuesday's regular Rockdale County Board of Commissioners meeting. Under the ordinance, creditors would provide the county with contact information for property owners who do not keep their property in compliance with county codes. Mortgage holders or property agents would be required to pay a $175 registration fee for each of their foreclosed properties to be put on the registry. The ordinance cited the need for the registry due to the risk of blighted neighborhoods and health and safety issues from poorly maintained foreclosed properties, in addition to poor aesthetics affecting property values.

In a unanimous vote, commissioners ultimately decided to defer a vote on the first reading after hearing from four local Realtors who spoke during the meeting's public comment period.

Dale Pearce, president of the East Metro Board of Realtors, said during public comment that a foreclosure registry is unnecessary because foreclosure information is already publicly available from courthouse records. He also referred to the added responsibility and financial obligations to real estate agents.

"In our opinion, this ordinance is not going to help in a real estate market that's already struggling," Pearce said.

Ginny Moore, broker for Keller Williams Realty, pointed to the Tax Commissioners Office that tracks down non-paying property owners and called a foreclosure registry redundant.

Pearce said the ordinance would "create a new layer of bureaucracy and costly regulation" when the county could enforce its existing codes.

Lonnie Burrell agreed.

"We don't need another ordinance. What we need is code enforcement," Burrell said. "Code enforcement is the answer to this."

James Hyde brought up that overgrown and rundown homes are often abandoned a year or two before the actual foreclosure happens and the proposed ordinance would "have an ordinance on the books that does not address the problem."

All the Realtors offered to work with the Board of Commissioners in revising the ordinance.

Commissioners decided they wanted more information from the real estate agents before moving forward with the foreclosure registry.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said the proposed ordinance was to address blighted areas that the county could not address through code enforcement. But she said the board did not want to hamper what the business community does.

"As a board, we want to make sure that our community looks as great as possible, and we also want to make sure that these foreclosures aren't a burden on the people who live in those communities," Van Ness said.

Commissioner Oz Nesbitt agreed that the agents brought up valid points.

"We definitely don't want to duplicate services," Chairman Richard Oden said.

The issue will be on the agenda for the Dec. 7 work session for agenda review and may be up for vote at the Dec. 14 meeting.