BANGOR, Maine — The city on Monday took possession of a dilapidated, fire-damaged apartment building left vacant for many years, but no one — not city councilors, staff or the property owners — was happy about it.
Monday’s action directing the city manager to take possession of 34 Holland St. was the final chapter in a decade-long battle between owner David Brown and the city.
At a meeting two weeks ago, city councilors agreed to give Brown two more weeks to come up with a plan to renovate the property and make it livable. On Monday, though, councilors were not convinced Brown would be able to make that promise and voted unanimously to reject a proposed agreement and then unanimously to take the property.
Councilor Rick Bronson called it a “lose-lose situation” anytime the city is forced to take property from a landowner. Councilor David Nealley said municipal staff has spent more than enough time trying to work with Brown. Councilor Gerry Palmer advised Brown to keep his money rather than dump it into the building.
Brown did not address the council directly on Monday. His sister Judy Judkins spoke on his behalf and claimed that the city was placing “excessively punitive conditions” on a proposed rehabilitation agreement.
Brown bought the property, then a four-unit apartment building, in 1989 and rented the units for many years. In 2001, the property was significantly damaged in a fire. The owner let the taxes lapse. He tried unsuccessfully to work with the city to fix up the property.
In May 2010, the city’s code enforcement office condemned the building. Still, Brown sought to restore it once more.
Judkins said the city should be ashamed to take a building that is not in immediate danger of collapse.
“You have the legal permission to punish him … but might does not make right,” she said.
Several neighbors who live on Holland Street, off Ohio Street, spoke in favor of the city’s plans to take possession of Brown’s property. Elizabeth Grandmaison said the owner’s efforts to rehabilitate the property over the last 10 years have been “dubious at best.”
“I don’t wish to seem unsympathetic and no one is exempt from hard times,” she said. “But it’s time to put an end to this.”
“We’ve done everything we can,” said Councilor Charlie Longo.
Now that it owns the property, the city plans to demolish the existing structure in the coming weeks.