by Zendelle Bouchard
At the City Council meeting on July 18, 2023, three Dangerous Building hearings were held, with two found by the Council to be Dangerous and a decision on the third tabled until the next meeting.
9 Devotion Ave: This split-entry home (see photo above) in the Rosenfield subdivision off Kennebunk Rd. has been vacant since 2015. The water was turned off in 2016. It has a vacant building license and the property taxes are current. Ian Houseal, Sanford’s Director of Community Development, detailed the condition of the property, which appears to have significant mold and water damage. He said members of the Land Bank Commission recall other properties in the same neighborhood being salvaged after they were fully gutted and rebuilt. A representative of the mortgage company said there is a pending foreclosure action, but no court date. The Council voted unanimously to adjudge the property a dangerous building.
27 Riverside Ave.: This home next door to St. Ignatius Gym has been vacant since owner Susan Normand passed away in October 2021. The home appears to be in relatively good condition but it is still full of Ms. Normand’s possessions and the back yard is full of furniture.
Councilor Ayn Hanselmann asked why the Land Bank made this home a priority since there are many others in town that have been vacant much longer and are in worse condition. Councilor Nate Hitchcock, one of the members of the Land Bank Commission, said the security of the property made it a priority because Ms. Normand was a mortgage originator and her home office may contain confidential documents. As an abandoned property, it meets the definition of dangerousness. Councilor Pete Tranchemontagne, also a Land Bank member, said the property is unsecured and the furniture in the back yard is unsafe, but it could be a really nice family home without too much work. A finding of Dangerousness means the City can secure the property within 24 hours.
A representative of the mortgage company said he expects the home to go on the auction block very soon, and is concerned that being designated a dangerous building could deter potential buyers. Mr. Houseal and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy both responded that they have not found that to be an issue with previous properties. The Council voted 5-1 to adjudge the property a dangerous building, with Councilor Hanselmann casting the vote in opposition.
The Council voted unanimously to order the nuisance abated and appropriate corrective actions taken for the 9 Devotion Ave. and 27 Riverside Ave. properties. A confirmation hearing will be held at the August 1 Council meeting, after which the orders will be recorded at the Registry of Deeds. The orders take effect 30 days after recording, however, Mr. Houseal said securing of the properties can be done immediately.
7 Mill St.: A hearing was also held to determine whether 7 Mill St. in Springvale is a dangerous building or nuisance. This historic five-unit home built in 1864 was once a shoe factory, and is Sanford’s oldest surviving factory building. It is currently vacant and posted against occupancy. Mr. Houseal went through the lengthy list of code violations and history of the City’s communications with the owners, and showed photos. He said the sewer bill and property taxes are both in arrears. The property has a four-page list of police calls dating back to 2019.
Owners James Kalaitzis and John Kent, who are based in New York, appeared via Zoom and said they were unaware until last week of most of the issues, as the original Notice of Violation was mailed to the wrong address and they did not receive it. Mr. Kent said they own four other buildings in town and have been responsible landlords, but in this property they were victimized by a squatter who got into an apartment in 2020 by falsely claiming she had a voucher from Sanford Housing, then refused to leave. He said the squatter brought other homeless people and drug users in, and conditions quickly deteriorated. Two of their tenants moved out, and they found space in their other buildings for the other two. After a lengthy legal battle, the owners were finally able to get the squatter out with an order to vacate in April of this year. They now have a maintenance person keeping an eye on the property to ensure no other squatters move in.
Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Lederer confirmed that the owners have been responsive to issues with their other properties in town. After lengthy discussion, the Council voted to table a decision until the next Council meeting on August 1. In the meantime, Mr. Lederer will do a new inspection so the owners have a complete list of violations that need to be addressed.
11 Kimball St.: The Dangerous Building hearing regarding the 8-unit property at 11 Kimball St. was continued to September 19, 2023, to allow the City to exhaust enforcement and administrative remedies. The hearing has been continued repeatedly since November of last year (see this story), but the owner has chosen to fight the City in court rather than rehab the building. The Council authorized legal action in June to find some resolution.
For more about the Land Bank Authority, see this page on the City’s website: https://www.sanfordmaine.org/departments/land_bank_authority/index.php.
For more on the City Council meeting, see these stories: