Yarmouth town council has passed a motion to demoish 1 Willow St. BELLE HATFIELD PHOTO
Yarmouth’s town council has not included any money in its 2013-14 budget to anticipate costs that might be associated with the proposed re-instatement of a Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry operation, but it has budgeted money for demolishing some of the town’s derelict buildings.
There is a line item in the town’s 2013-14 budget entitled Town Properties Maintenance. That could be a euphemism for demolition costs.
During budget deliberations Yarmouth’s council accepted staff’s recommendation that $50,000 be added to that line item (which normally has a budget of $10,000 for recurring maintenance issues) in anticipation of the need to rip down some of the worst of the worst buildings in the town.
The deterioration of Yarmouth’s housing stock appears to be gaining momentum, with more and more buildings remaining long-term vacant or abandoned. Apartment buildings that have never advertised for tenants are sporting for-rent signs in their windows and on their lawns. In some instances landlords have given up trying to find tenants, telling the town’s bylaw enforcement officer, Russell Allen, they are awaiting a turnaround in the economy. Click here to see story on an upcoming demolition action.
Allen told disturbing stories when he last appeared before the town council’s committee of the whole. The bottom line? There are properties, he said, now only fit to demolish. And he anticipates, in some instances, it will be the town that has to step in to get the job done.
Which is why the town, looking to the future, set aside an additional $50,000 in its 2013-14 budget. That’s money to demolish buildings it has either purchased at tax sale or which its staff have deemed uninhabitable and a public safety hazard.
In the spring, the town purchased several vacant buildings among properties it bought at its tax sale. When the clock has run out on the former owners’ redemption period and the town has secured legal title, decisions will have to be made about how to deal with the eyesores.
In addition to properties that have been picked up by the town at tax sale, there are others that are in deplorable condition, even as the taxes continue to be paid.
Allen is recommending demolition of at least two properties that have been in the town’s crosshairs for the last four years. Those two properties aren’t owned by the town, but the property owners have not responded to a variety of orders issued by the town.
The town has had to become, in effect, a property manager, hiring contractors to fix deficiencies and then charging the costs back to the property’s tax account. To be clear, the work being ordered done by the town is the bare minimum needed to protect public safety. They board up broken windows and try to ensure squatters aren’t able to gain access through open doors etc. They hire contractors to pick up garbage and, in some instances, mow tall grass. Earlier in July, it was the town that hired a contractor to remove a dilapidated fire escape and a chimney in danger of collapse at 1 Willow St. Those costs will be charged back to the property’s tax accounts. As long as the property owners keep paying their taxes, taxpayers aren’t on the hook for costs like those incurred on Willow Street.
Council was told the town could expect to be called upon to do more as landlords stop trying to rent the properties. In many cases, the owners no longer live in Yarmouth and the town has had no communication with them for years – other than the payment of taxes owed.