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Three Sanford Properties Declared Dangerous

18 Winter St.

At the City Council meeting on May 18, public hearings were held to determine if three properties in Sanford meet the requirements for the city to declare them dangerous buildings.

The first property discussed was 18 Winter St., a duplex which has been vacant for many years. It has been owned by Bradley Estabrook of Laconia, NH, since 2004. The property has been in foreclosure for over three years. Ian Houseal, Director of Community Development, showed photos of the exterior of the property with details of the condition. He said there have been problems with squatters in the building over the years, and police have been called to the building often on reports of trespassing and suspicious activity. The water has been off in the building since 2017.

Although the vacant building license is current on the property, Mr. Houseal explained that doesn’t absolve an owner from responsibility to maintain the property. He said the city was forced to secure the property with bars and padlocks because the owners and mortgage companies did not take that responsibility. He said the building meets the requirements to be declared dangerous because the decks and approaches are not structurally sound; the property is unsanitary with people having lived there from time to time with no water; and because its long-term status as vacant makes it unsafe. Councilor Ayn Hanselmann said she owns the property next door and that there have been significant pest and rat issues.

The owner and mortgage holders were notified of the hearing but did not attend or respond with any comments.

Councilor Bob Stackpole said this hearing was the first step to hold the owner’s feet to the fire to begin to clean up the property. He said he hoped the building could be rehabbed and become an asset to the community once again.

The second property on the agenda was a single family home at 28 Emery St. Mr. Houseal said the owner, Steven McIntosh, could not be located. The property was foreclosed on and assigned to Sun West Mortgage in 2019. He said all the windows in the house were broken and the doors were unsecured until the city installed locks. He said there was a massive pile of household waste weighing 9.88 tons in the back yard of the home, which the city had hauled away. Someone appeared to have been living in a shed on the property where there was illegally installed electrical wiring. The water was turned off last November and the electricity was disconnected in April of this year. Like the previous property, this one was the subject of many police calls in the past year.

Carrie Folsom, an attorney for Sun West, said that because the mortgage on the property is a VA loan, it was subject to provisions of the CARES Act, which meant the bank could not complete the foreclosure. However, working with the homeowner, who she said is living with family in Massachusetts, they were able to reach an agreement two weeks ago. The bank is now actively working on the case and has a plan to begin remediating the property immediately so it can be sold.

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said by declaring the building dangerous, it would ensure the bank will follow through. Mr. Houseal added that he will be keeping an eye on it, so the city can recoup the costs of the trash removal and of securing the property.

The third hearing was for a four-family home at 37 Montreal St. The property is owned by Heather and Mitchell Piper of Kennebunk, with no mortgage. The electricity is still on. The water has been off since March.

Code Enforcement Officer Jeannie Wood said she was initially called to the property in 2020 by a tenant who complained of bedbugs, but when she saw the unsanitary condition of the unit, she condemned it and the tenant was forced to vacate. Photos were shown of the interior of the apartment. Two of the other units were vacant at the time, and the fourth tenant later moved out. Ms. Wood said she later found a squatter living in one of the apartments and told them to leave. Several notices of violation have been issued to the owners over the past two years, but no action has been taken. She said the building is considered abandoned.

Mr. Houseal said there are sewer liens and property tax liens on the property, and it has no current vacant building license.

During the hearing, Ms. Wood received an email from the property owner, which she read to the Council. The email stated that the owner has a plan to get the building cleaned out this week, and treated for pest control next week. After that, electrical and plumbing work will be done and smoke detectors installed to bring the building up to code.

Councilor Stackpole said the vote to declare the building dangerous would put pressure on the owners to get the work done.

The Council voted unanimously to declare all three properties dangerous buildings. The nuisances were ordered to be abated, and corrective actions taken. The owner or party in interest of each property must file a rehab plan with the city within 30 days, and bring the properties into compliance with all state and local codes. If those things are not done, the city will take further action through the Land Bank Authority.

The full City Council video may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-_zEi2sQXs.

28 Emery St.
37 Montreal St.
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