City plan makes good sense

Published 9:57 am Friday, February 19, 2016

I was happy to see everyone at the city council meeting Tuesday. Whether a home owner, a renter or a business owner, abandoned lots are everyone’s problem.

That said, I was confused as to the anger and misinformation by so many in the audience. The city is interested in getting taxable land back on the tax rolls — that is all. If the city can do this through a private third party or if the city can do this itself, the bottom line is, the council wants people to buy land that’s been adjudicated, which is land on which no taxes have been paid.

Any claim that the city will arbitrarily seize someone’s land and then auction it off to the highest bidder is false. Such a maneuver would be highly illegal and contrary to the best interest of any community. It is unfortunate that someone would circulate an anonymous letter filled with such fiction and it is surprising residents of Bogalusa — who have the most to gain through the adjudicated properties process — would speak out so vehemently without first having read the proposed ordinance.

The only question, really, is whether the city should use Archon, a private company that handles adjudication auctions, or whether the city should auction the property off on its own. The downside to Archon is, the company makes its money off of inflated real estate prices, so a piece of land that’s worth, say, $200 could sell for hundreds or thousands more than that.

Apparently, this steep price hike is one of the reasons people have been slow to buy up adjudicated properties in Bogalusa. But, it was made clear at the city meeting Tuesday that even before Archon stepped in, the city itself wasn’t very good at selling off adjudicated properties.

One the one hand, Archon is expensive, but the company provides title clearance, meaning the successful bidder has a free and clear title to the land, which makes getting a mortgage easier. If the city auctions off the land, as it has in the past, the buyer could get the land at closer to its true cost, but a smart buyer would want to either hire an attorney or a title company to make sure there’s no lien or other claims against the property prior to bidding — and this could cost hundreds of dollars on its own. Without this, the bidder probably will not qualify for a mortgage and risks an even costlier legal battle or the loss of the property altogether if someone else has a claim to or lien on the land.

Either way, it’s not a difficult process but a smart shopper is going to pay more for the land than what it’s really worth. But that’s always been the case, and it’s not news.

The mayor has said all along the purpose for revisiting the adjudicated property ordinance was to put in place a system whereby a neighbor who owns land adjacent to an abandoned piece of property may clean up the property and care for it for a year, and then claim the property without a public auction. In other words, the mayor is offering folks a simple, inexpensive way to expand their lots — adding value to their existing real estate.

At last, there is something simple amid the noise: A good deal for Bogalusa homeowners.