Land bank moves to forgive taxes on historic home

Mar. 15—The Glynn-Brunswick Land Bank Authority voted Tuesday to extinguish property taxes owed on a historic home at 1315 Union St., paving the way for its preservation pending approval by the Glynn County School Board.

"This is the first opportunity for the land bank to pursue one of their most important powers, which is the extinguishment of ad valorem taxes," said City Attorney Brian Corry.

Before the tax bill can be dismissed, the land bank must notify the Glynn County School Board and give it 30 days to file an objection. The school board is entitled to some of the tax money owed and has a say in whether it is dismissed.

If approved, city Planning, Development and Codes Director John Hunter said the city has a buyer lined up who is interested in preserving the old building.

"The property was donated to the city five or six years ago, but there were unpaid property taxes that we needed to extinguish," Hunter said.

The property was owned by Joe McDonough, who donated it.

Several proposals have been made involving demolishing the structure, but all were denied by the city due to the home's value to the historic district.

The design came from architect George Barber, who created mail-order books of house plans that were used across the country.

Brunswick is home to three Barber designs. This particular house dates back to the 1890s.

"In some cases, it came with a full materials list, so you could order the plans and the materials and they'd all arrive at the same time," Hunter said.

Another local, Tony Ross, approached the city with a proposal to renovate the structure.

The city approved moving forward with a purchase agreement last month, Hunter said.

The deal isn't final, but the city hopes to see it through to fruition.

Lance Sabbe, executive director of Forward Brunswick, introduced the authority to a concept plan to develop city properties into workforce rental housing.

The proposal included a simple two-bedroom home design that fits into the design of others around it and is efficient materials-wise. Federal and state agencies offer a lot of money in grants for programs like this, he said.

Ideally, the first one could be constructed by the end of the year, he said.

Members of the authority also discussed an initiative to request tax deeds for 84 properties from the county.

Authority members Felicia Harris and Allen Booker, city and county commissioners respectively, said they were of the opinion that the land bank may not be ready to take on so many properties. It may not have the internal structure and processes needed to flip that many properties for development.

"It's so much," Harris said.

Rather than asking for all of the tax deeds in the city limits, she suggested taking a look at each property and starting with ones that could be most efficiently turned around.

Jill Wright, another member of the authority, added that the land bank needs a paid director to manage the projects.

The land bank will hold a work session soon to develop a game plan.