Bibb plans to auction seized land

Bibb County has a plan to auction off more than 300 pieces of property this summer as part of a years-long effort to rid the books of land seized for non-payment of taxes.

The county in the past has discussed selling the property obtained over the past century through sheriff’s deeds, a practice that ceased about a decade ago.

But the titles were legally murky, and clearing them proved to be an expensive and time-consuming task.

“It has been a tremendously long, laborious effort,” said Steve Layson, Bibb’s chief administrative officer. “I think now we’ve found a way to do it.”

That way is through a judicial procedure not available when officials first started examining the issue, said Kevin Brown, a Macon lawyer working on the project.

A judge will sign an order clearing the titles after determining due process has been met to notify property owners that they would no longer be able to redeem their land, Brown said. Until then, property owners could still take back their land by paying the taxes owed plus a penalty, he said.

A hearing for all the surplus properties will be held Aug. 17 at the county courthouse in downtown Macon. Property owners and their families would have a chance to redeem their land then if they choose.

An auction to sell off the remaining properties is scheduled for Aug. 22 at the courthouse.

In a recent test group of 25 parcels, only one person ultimately redeemed property, Brown said.

The process is expected to cost between $75,000 and $78,000, he said. Other attorney and auctioneer fees are expected to be minimal.

“My prediction is, (after the auction) we’ll break even, if not do better,” Brown said.

Commission Chairman Sam Hart said the most important thing is getting those properties back on the tax rolls.

“We’ll have this one-time cost, but the taxes will continue for a long period of time,” he said.

The properties, many which have not been maintained for years, will be auctioned off in groups, Brown said. Less desirable pieces will be paired with more desirable ones to encourage their purchase, he said.

There is no minimum bid, and Layson said a lot of properties probably will be sold at a very low price.

Officials said they hope residents who live next door to some of the surplus properties will be interested in buying them.

“They might be able to pick up something at a very reasonable price,” Layson said.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.