ROCKLAND, Maine — City councilors took quick action Monday night in an effort to return four properties that had been seized for nonpayment of taxes or sewer fees.
The council gave unanimous preliminary approval to returning the properties. A final vote is scheduled for next month.
Last month, the city acquired three homes for nonpayment of property taxes and additional homes were taken for failure to pay sewer fees. The foreclosures are automatic under state law unless a municipal body votes to waive foreclosures.
The city initially foreclosed on the properties to protect the municipality’s ability to collect the taxes or fees that are owed on the properties. City Manager James Chaousis said that if the city had not foreclosed on the properties it would have lost its right to collect those taxes or fees. The manager said if the city began waiving taxes, other property owners might follow suit.
Under the accords given initial approval Monday night, the former owners have agreed to pay what they owed in fees before the foreclosures, as well as any additional taxes or fees incurred since, and filing fees before the properties are returned.
The city manager said the amount of foreclosures in Rockland is similar to what is experienced in other communities.
The properties that are in the process of being returned to the owners are a two-story home on Jefferson Street assessed at $117,700 whose owners owed $200 in sewer fees; a single-family home on Franklin Street assessed at $119,500 whose owners owed $2,244 in taxes; a Rockland Street home assessed at $114,900 that owed $196 in sewer fees; and a home in the Sunset Terrace Mobile Home Park valued at $41,300 whose owners owed $239 in sewer fees.
Also on Monday night, the council rejected the proposed sale of a duplex at 63 Warren St. The property had been acquired by the city last August through a sewer fee foreclosure. Beal said the city tried to work out an arrangement with the heirs of the former owner and the bank that held the mortgage but that did not occur.
The city then solicited bids not none were received by the deadline. An offer was then made by Ryan Lawrence of Rockland for $10,000. The property is assessed by the city at $127,900.
Councilor Valli Geiger argued against accepting the offer, pointing out it was a small fraction of the value of the property.
“This is a lost opportunity. This seems to be lost revenues we can ill afford,” Geiger said.
Chaousis recommended the sale be approved, saying that the property would be back on the property tax rolls immediately.
Voting against the sale were Geiger and Councilor Larry Pritchett and Louise MacLellan-Ruf.
The manager said he would work with the council on an alternate way to sell the property.
The council unanimously approved seeking bids on another tax-acquired property. The city will seek bids on a one-eighth acre lot at 44 Old County Road. The minimum bid is $5,200, which is what the property is assessed at by the city. The city acquired the land in 1994.