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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

“I might just let it sit vacant:” How Code Enforcement impacts property owners in Macon-Bibb

Henry Keating
Ulysses Colbert’s house at 2269 Anthony Terrace in Macon on March 14, 2024. Colbert had rented out this house, but after losing out on thousands of dollars in rent, and now having to go clean up the mess left by the previous tenant, is reconsidering being a landlord.

Caved-in and tarped-over roofs, piles of old bikes, lawnmowers and junk in the yard and overgrown lots in residential and commercial areas are all common sights throughout Macon-Bibb County. This entourage of factors, commonly referred to as “blight,” are a persistent issue in Macon that continues to be a focus of the county government and many local nonprofits. 

While many agencies throughout the county are struggling to help Macon in the fight against blight, Mayor Lester Miller and the Department of Code Enforcement have taken a more active hand.

A Brief History of Code Enforcement

The Department of Code Enforcement has been an agency of the Macon-Bibb County Government since 2021, when Mayor Lester Miller created and charged the department with combating the blight that exists within Macon’s neighborhoods.

In the past three years, Code Enforcement has cleared the demolition of hundreds of homes that have fallen into disrepair and been labeled a “Nuisance Per Se” or NPS, which starts a process that can end with demolition.  

One of the people leading what the mayor has labeled the #blightfight is JT Ricketson, the director of code enforcement. Ricketson has been described as a “bulldog” in the past, and has voraciously attacked the immense task alongside his steadily growing department over the last three years.

“I love charging hills, and I love running after things, so, yes, they may have to pull me back in some, but my intent will always be to make this a safer community,” Ricketson said to 13WMAZ when he was first confirmed by the county commission. 

The NPS process starts with the mayor who can declare a structure poses an imminent danger. In some cases, these are homes damaged by fire but others have just seen years of neglect. Once a property is declared an NPS, owners are given at least 10 days to decide if they want to fix the property, let the county demolish it or donate the property to the Land Bank. 

Code Enforcement has demolished over 600 homes through the NPS process, many of them south of Little Richard Penniman Boulevard and west of I-75. The department intends to demolish hundreds more in the coming years.

Code enforcement can also issue citations and petition for higher property taxes, known as a blight tax, for homes properties that are in bad shape but don’t meet the threshold of NPS.

A map of where properties designated as “Nuisance Per Se”  have been demolished.  Data from the Macon-Bibb County Department of Code Enforcement. Created by Henry Keating.

Armed with his experience as an investigator for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a team of 17 officers — some of whom are also sworn-in sheriff’s deputies — Ricketson’s department has become a common sight around Macon-Bibb’s neighborhoods. Officer Emmett Bivins, one of Ricketson’s code enforcement officers, said that their presence was felt and appreciated by the community.

“Many people get defensive, but then some people are very cooperative,” Bivins said. “Some people say, ‘Hey, look, whatever you guys need me to do, I’ll do it, No problem.’ Some don’t want to do it. They just feel like ‘hey, my property has been like this for 10, 20, 30 years, who are you to come in and tell me any different?’ 

“And a lot of them are uninformed. They don’t know the codes,” Bivins said, elaborating that many times, code enforcement officers have to educate homeowners on laws that may not have been enforced in the past.

While very few occupants and owners are looking for trouble with code enforcement, some find it anyway. While most code enforcement violations are exterior issues like inoperable vehicles, garbage and unkempt lawns, Code Enforcement also deals with tenant complaints against landlords.

Ulysses Colbert, 2269 Anthony Terrace

Sometimes, Code Enforcement officers respond to calls from occupants of neglected, unhealthy and dangerous apartments and long-term hotels, but other times, they respond to tenants who, some homeowners claim, trash the properties they inhabit.

Ulysses Colbert inherited a property on Anthony Terrace, a neighborhood not far from the corner of Pio Nono Ave and Eisenhower Pkwy. He thought it would be a great thing to rent it out, keep the house occupied and make some money.

“It was left to me, it was a family house, and I had never rented out a house before,” Colbert said. 

When he began to rent it out, however, he said it fell into disrepair under the tenants’ care, and when Code Enforcement cited him, he went over to repair it. But he couldn’t get in. He said his tenant refused to grant him entry.

“She [the tenant] had already tore up my house anyway, but then they went and punched holes in the walls,” Colbert said. “She told code enforcement she fell through the hole in the floor where the air conditioning comes through, but what she had done was take the plate off.”

Since his tenant refused him entry, he was unable to address the cited violations, and he said he continued to rack up fines. Colbert said he lost out on back rent because there had been outstanding code violations when the building was occupied, and Colbert said his tenant simply stopped paying rent. 

By the time he was able to get through housing court, evict the tenant, and begin to repair the property, he said he had lost out on $7,233 in rent.

“It’s like the renters have more rights than the homeowners, like they move in and they own the house now,” Colbert said. “[Code Enforcement] might be good on blighted property, but when it comes to homeowners renting, I think they get carried away. It’s like they shield the tenants from the homeowner, and I’m just totally disgusted because I think they should investigate more before they start writing violations.”

Colbert said he was fixing up the violations, and a testament to his effort is a large dumpster that occupies the front yard of the house, full of garbage from the property cleanup and renovations. 

“I’m fixing it back to the way it was, but right now, I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” Colbert said. “You live and you learn, I don’t think I’ll rent it any more, I might just let it sit vacant.”

Officer Bivins, however, sees his work as changing a mindset issue; he says Code Enforcement ensures that people begin to once again take pride in the properties they own, and if they don’t, then the citations will ensure they have to go through the motions.

“Whether you bought the property, it was heired to you, these [codes] are already on the books, and when you bought the property you agreed to keep it like this,” Bivins said. “There used to be personal responsibility, owners who took pride, you don’t see that as much anymore.”

While some property owners feel that Code Enforcement is overbearing and unhelpful, the department continues to make the rounds through Macon’s neighborhoods.

The Macon Bibb County Code of Ordinances can be found at, and the international property maintenance code, which Code Enforcement also uses for guidelines, can be found at

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