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4 Sanford Homes Declared Dangerous Buildings

99 High St.

At its regular meeting on August 3, the Sanford City Council voted to declare four homes in the city dangerous buildings. Under Maine state law, a building may be adjudged a nuisance or dangerous if the Council finds that the building is structurally unsafe, unstable or unsanitary; constitutes a fire hazard; is unsuitable or improper for the use or occupancy to which it is put; constitutes a hazard to health or safety because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment; or is otherwise dangerous to life or property.

Four separate public hearings were held, for the properties located at 6 Proulx Ct. and 19 Mill St. in Springvale, and 27 Wilson St. and 99 High St. in Sanford. Ian Houseal, Sanford’s Director of Community Development, presented the evidence in each case, which included photographs, mortgage and foreclosure documents, notices of violation issued by the Code Enforcement office, and summaries of police calls to the properties.

At 6 Proulx Ct., owned by Linda and David Chasse of Sanford, the water has been shut off since 2013 and there is no electric meter. Photos showed broken windows and doors, and overall deterioration. The bank started foreclosure proceedings but did not complete them. Neither the owners or any lienholders attended the hearing. Mr. Houseal said the building appeared to be in relatively good shape inside, and there is hope that it can be salvaged and renovated.

19 Mill St., owned by Hildegarde and Jeffrey Anderson of Houlton, was previously declared dangerous by the Council in 2018. At that time, only securing the property was authorized. Mr. Houseal said the Land Bank had hoped the property could be salvaged, but that with continued neglect, it has degraded to a much further extent since 2018. The water has been off since 2017 and there is no electric meter. The police reports indicate there was a fire at the property in 2014, and there have been reports of squatters, vandalism and animal complaints. Mr. Houseal said the property is clearly abandoned and multiple systems are failing. When Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Lederer went to the building this past month, he found the front door wide open.

Lauren Thomas joined the meeting by Zoom on behalf of the mortgage holder, U.S. Bank. She said the bank was asking for additional time to deal with the property. Because they don’t have clear title, they can’t remove the personal property that remains in the home. Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said she is not inclined to wait, since this is the second time around for this property and no progress has been made. Mr. Houseal added that once the order takes effect, the City can dispose of the personal property. He said the City wants these properties to be salvaged and rehabbed whenever possible, and uses the Dangerous Buildings designation to move the process along when foreclosure proceedings get stalled. He advised against giving the bank more time, but instead working with them afterward, once there is a clear path forward.

27 Wilson St., owned by Matthew Raymond of Pennsylvania, has been abandoned since 2010, according to Mr. Houseal. There have been multiple foreclosures and reassignments of the mortgage on the property. The building has not had a vacant building license for at least five years. Multiple notices of property violations have been issued. The building is completely unsecured with broken out windows. A property management company mowed the grass early in July, but it is now over a foot tall again. There have been numerous reports of burglaries, disturbances and suspicious activity at the property over the past several years. Neither the owner or any lienholder representative was present for the hearing. Mr. Houseal said after this process takes effect, the City will board up the house in a timely manner.

99 High St., owned by Tyler Goulden of Arundel, has been the subject of numerous complaints by neighbors. Mr. Houseal said when he went to document the property, it was very unsanitary, with piles of foul-smelling garbage, doors were open and there were unlicensed vehicles in the yard and a refrigerator on the porch roof. Water and electricity are both on. At least one unit of the two-family home has been rented to tenants, but without the required rental license. The City took action earlier that day to clean up some of the trash and secure the building. Mr. Houseal said there were over 20 police calls to the property in the past three years.

Mr. Goulden joined the meeting by Zoom and blamed his failure to take care of the property on his inability to evict tenants due to the pandemic and being busy with work. He said he had heard reports of drug activity at the home but “didn’t want to seem like I was involved with it.”

Mayor Mastraccio responded that problems with the property have been ongoing for three years, while the pandemic was only the past year and a half. “It sounds like a lot of excuses,” she said. Mr. Houseal said it was not a failure to evict, but a failure to manage the property. Councilor Luke Lanigan agreed, saying “it’s neglect.”

Following each hearing, the Council voted 5-0 to adjudge each property as dangerous. Councilors Ayn Hanselmann and John Tuttle were absent with notice.

In a separate item, the Council voted to order corrective action be taken on each property, including immediately securing the premises, and removal of all trash, debris, vehicles, etc., and to abate the dangerous building and nuisance by removing it. The owner or party in interest (lienholder) may submit a rehabilitation plan to the City Manager within 30 days of recording this Order and, if the plan is carried out in a timely manner, the Order to immediately abate the dangerous building and nuisance may be delayed. Such rehabilitation plan must include, at a minimum, correcting all deficiencies listed as part of the findings of fact. The building must be rehabilitated and brought into compliance with all applicable State and Local Codes and meet all permitting and inspection requirements. There shall be no occupancy or use of the building until the property has been satisfactorily rehabilitated.

Mr. Houseal told the Council that of the three properties declared dangerous buildings by the City at the previous round of hearings in May, progress has been made on two of them. On 28 Emery St., the bank that owns the property has cleaned it out and replaced windows, and a sale is expected within a few weeks. On 37 Montreal St., the property exterior is partially cleaned up and looks somewhat better. No progress has been made on 18 Winter St.

The front door at 6 Proulx Ct.
19 Mill St.
27 Wilson St.
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