Bangor councilors unanimously vote to acquire five abandoned properties

Posted March 10, 2014, at 9:36 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — With no discussion, city councilors Monday night unanimously voted to take possession of five properties apparently abandoned by their owners.

There was no comment from the public before the councilors agreed to acquire the properties in a series of consecutive votes.

Last week, a council committee recommended that the city take possession of the unused lots in its ongoing effort to crack down on tax-delinquent property owners.

All the properties at issue have matured liens against them, and the city’s attempts to obtain payment or track down owners have been unsuccessful.

Targeted for seizure were:

— 30 Katahdin St., a .01-acre parcel at the end of the dead-end street. It has 9 years of outstanding taxes totaling $807 and an assessed value of $1,400.

— 26 Stone St., another tiny .01-acre sliver of land at the end of the street with 9 years of outstanding taxes totaling $830. The property is assessed at $1,400 and likely would be sold to an abutting owner.

— 17 Alden St., a vacant .05-acre plot worth about $300 with 8 years of unpaid taxes totaling $480. Bangor’s Deputy Treasurer David Little said the city would have to decide whether to retain the property or sell it to neighbors.

The odd slivers of land likely were formed when nearby developers bought them to prevent neighboring streets or building projects from encroaching on their own development, Assessor Ben Birch said last week. Because the lots were so small and only served as a buffer, some owners just stopped or never started paying the small tax bill that came along with them.

A 4,625-square-foot property valued at $8,400, 55 Parker St., hasn’t had taxes paid on it in 8 years, with more than $2,000 in payments due. Little said the lot is too small to be buildable under city standards, so the land likely would be divided up and sold to abutting owners.

The exception in in terms of area is 1036 Stillwater Ave., which could be large enough to serve some buildable use in the future. Despite being within the burgeoning Stillwater Avenue commercial corridor, the 3.74-acre plot between Interstate 95 and Burlington Coat Factory has an assessed value of only $400, largely because it’s so far back from Stillwater Avenue and there are no known access easements to the parcel, Little said last week. In 12 years, that owner has accumulated outstanding taxes to the tune of $775.

The committee earlier tabled talks about seizing it because members wanted city officials to learn more about it.

In other meeting business, councilors voted to amend the city code to allow for single-stream, or zero-sort, recycling beginning July 1. The aim is to enable residents to recycle more items and at a lower cost to the city, city officials said while weighing the pros and cons of the concept.

To that end, councilors in December authorized a five-year contract that will privatize recycling in the city, allowing Pine Tree Waste to take on the task at a significantly lower cost than what the city had been spending.

Pine Tree will pick up recyclables every other week, a proposal councilors favored because it means fewer trips for the trucks, resulting in lower costs and reduced carbon emissions.

Bangor Daily News reporter Nick McCrea contributed to this report.

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