Board evokes dangerous building law on Walker Street home

EASY ACCESS — The many open or broken doors and windows at this house at 15 Walker Street, Bridgton, have made it a frequent hangout for local teens.

EASY ACCESS — The many open or broken doors and windows at this house at 15 Walker Street, Bridgton, have made it a frequent hangout for local teens.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen took the first step Tuesday toward declaring a vacant house at 15 Walker Street a dangerous building, subject to demolition if the problems aren’t corrected.

The board voted 5–0 to start the process under state law, which requires a public hearing and final vote by the Board of Selectmen, at the urging of Police Chief Richard Stillman.

“The residence at 15 Walker Street has been abandoned for many years and has many open/broken windows and doors, allowing anyone to enter,” Stillman wrote in a Sept. 3 letter to Town Manager Bob Peabody. “I have been told by neighbors the residence is used by young people as a hangout, and has become an attractive nuisance.”

Stillman said the home, owned by Dean Palli of Wellesely, Mass. since 2011, “would be a significant fire hazard, and constitutes a health and safety hazard because of nonexistent maintenance, dilapidation and abandonment and is dangerous to life and property.”

Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker agreed with Stillman’s assessment. “The building appears to be unsafe, due to windows being broken out, doors wide open, and electrical wiring exposed,” Baker wrote in a memo to the board.

Peabody said Palli owes $1,975 in unpaid taxes, and “the property will be in legal jeopardy in December.” Notification of the board’s decision will be given to Palli, said Peabody, and the owner will be able to testify in his defense at the public hearing before any decisions are made by selectmen.

The state law on dangerous buildings gives municipalities the authority to declare a building as dangerous, and to seek an order of demolition by filing proceedings in Superior Court. If the court rules in the town’s favor, Palli would be charged with paying the town’s costs for demolition.

On Tuesday, however, sentiment among board members appeared to favor seeking a negotiated resolution with the owner. The property includes a one and three-quarter-story house with enclosed porch and several sheds, as well as a small barn.

“A building of this size probably, at one time, was a nice residential building,” said Selectman Bob McHatton. He wasn’t in favor of pursuing demolition. If the owner continues to ignore the problem, and the town takes over the property, “Any chance it could be put up for sale?” he asked.

Peabody said the town would have to wait until the lien was foreclosed on and the town became the owner by default. “Ideally, we’d like the homeowner to step in and do the responsible thing,” he said.

Peabody said the board would be asked to spell out at the hearing what steps need to be taken to address the situation, and give Palli sufficient time to address the problems. “First and foremost, it’s an unsecured building,” he said.

The town has assessed the building at a value of $107,649, and the land at $36,037.

 

 

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