Options considered on Fryeburg rundown buildings

By Emily Butterfield

Contributing Writer

FRYEBURG — Complaints concerning with the safety and aesthetics of two building in town have prompted both the selectmen and Code Enforcement Officer Katie Haley to discuss what options are accessible to deal with the issue and what they can do in the future.

At the August 20 meeting, the board discussed the house located on Portland road and the numerous attempts to have the homeowner deal with not only the looks of the building, but the safety concerns about it as well. Though the property is not occupied, there were reports of children playing inside the building, which is partially falling down on the back side. “If there’s a kid in there and that building collapses, that’s borderline willful negligence,” said selectmen Jeffrey Cox.

In December of 2014, the owner agreed to clean up the property, but failed to do so despite Code Officer Haley’s numerous attempts to contact them. Haley said that if the town desired, because of the condition of the house, they could remove it themselves. Although Haley had never been through the process herself, she described it as “complex.”

Selectmen decided that they required a response from the owner by the September 3rd meeting, and the owner agreed to remove the back section of the house which is caving in, and board up the rest of the building so no one could gain entry. “Personally, I’d like to see the whole thing gone, myself,” said Richard Eastman. “But at least we’re moving in the right direction.” The board agreed that the property must be fixed as specified by October 4, 2015.

The next property that was brought into question was one that is located on Maine Street. Concerns were raised about the looks of that building as well. However, because there is nothing in the town ordinance concerning the aesthetics of a property, Haley is unable to cite the owner for anything. In order to deal with the property, Haley must first go to the selectmen to get their approval for any action that may need to be taken.

The board and code officer have showed interest in wanting to adopt some form of an ordinance that would allow them to bypass having to ask the selectmen for approval every time a person complains about a property.

“If someone was in the building, there might be issues with plumbing and septic,” said Haley, “but where it’s unoccupied there’s not a whole lot to go on.” Haley also says that Fryeburg does have a nuisance statute for things that smell bad or interfere with others nearby, but not for structural integrity.

“In this particular case, you have a lot more pedestrian traffic,” said Eastman. “If there’s a structural issue there, we won’t know until it tips over.”

Other towns have adopted the Property Maintenance Code, but Haley says there are issues with that as well, such as requiring houses to be painted or to fix broken windows, that could be upsetting to some people. She was also unsure whether or not the code would be able to be revised or enacted in its entirety, but did say she would look further into the issue if the selectmen wanted.

Eastman motioned to have the owner come back and provide proof that the building was safe to stand. The motion passed, but nothing was decided on how to deal with future properties. Town Manager Sharon Jackson said that it would likely have to be dealt with by the planning board, who could then change the Town Ordinance.

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