June 21, 2018
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Maine city grapples with whether to renovate or demolish abandoned homes

Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune
Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune
The Sanford City Council on Tuesday voted to designate this property at 19 Mill Street a dangerous building under state law. If the owners don't take steps to secure the property within a certain timeframe, the city can step in and do so and recover its expenses through a special tax or through civil action.
By Tammy Wells, Journal Tribune

The Sanford City Council took action on another abandoned dwelling on Tuesday but in this case, the city is looking to secure the property, rather than have it torn down if the owners don’t make a move to remedy the situation.

The property at 19 Mill St. in Springvale is vacant and has no water service. Windows are broken, there is a tarp on a portion of the roof, indicating the likelihood of a hole, and it has been deemed unfit for habitation.

Still, Sanford Community Development Director Ian Houseal said the city’s Land Bank Commission indicated the property may be suitable for rehabilitation.

According to Houseal, the owners, Hildegard and Jeffrey Anderson, who have a Houlton address, received but did not respond to a certified letter sent by the city informing them of the potential action taken on Tuesday.

Valued at $126,700, the single-family home was built in 1923 and is adjacent to the former Mill Street Market. The couple has owned the property since 2004 and had been current on taxes until recently — the last installment is late, and there are water and sewer liens on the property, city officials say.

The Mill Street property is among several vacant, abandoned properties the city has dealt with or plans to deal with in the near future in an effort to improve the city’s housing stock. Next up for review are a long abandoned two-family property at 209 Brook St. and an abandoned two-unit property at 12 Island Ave.

Recently, the city demolished two dilapidated properties, one at 9 Kirk St. and another at 32 River St., along with the remains of two Island Avenue multi-family properties that burned in a fire in 2017.

Under the state’s dangerous buildings law, the city must give the owners a specific amount of time to make improvements, secure the property or appeal the city’s decision. If the owners take no action, the city can take action and then recover its expenses through a special tax or through civil action.

“This is a house that could be salvaged,” said deputy mayor Lucas Lanigan. “It’s not all about demolition.”

“The Land Bank doesn’t want it to be torn down, but (wants it) secured, so it could be rehabbed,” said Houseal of the 19 Mill Street property. He said is is currently open to the elements.

“At one time it was a nice place,” said Mayor Tom Cote. “This isn’t going to remedy itself.”

Cote said the 19 Mill Street property won’t be the last dilapidated vacant property the city is prepared to deal with — the Brook Street and Island Avenue properties come up for action on Feb. 20.

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