WINSLOW — New rules aimed at dealing with dozens of abandoned and unsafe buildings in town will go into effect next month. The Town Council on Monday unanimously adopted a property management ordinance that requires owners of vacant and abandoned buildings to register the properties, obtain permits for them and make sure they are kept up to code.

The new rules target empty, dilapidated buildings in town.

Ben Twitchell, the councilor who proposed the ordinance, said Wednesday that there are about 45 buildings in Winslow that are abandoned or vacant.

People have asked him before to do something to take care of buildings with collapsing roofs, boarded-up windows and overgrown lawns, Twitchell said.

“It makes the neighborhood look kind of run down,” Twitchell said.

The ordinance states that abandoned properties, especially residential properties, “create and pose significant and costly problems for the town.” The buildings hinder neighborhood revitalization, decrease property values, attract criminal activity, are structurally unsound, and pose general threats to public health and safety, the town states in its ordinance.

Although the town has legal avenues to tackle properties, it often has a hard time contacting property owners. In many cases, vacant and abandoned buildings are owned by a bank or other financial institution. Getting in touch with someone who deals with the property, let alone getting them to do anything to fix its condition, can be a challenge.

Even if the town contacts an owner, forcing the owner to clean up troubled properties was difficult because Winslow didn’t have its own ordinance with maintenance guidelines. The purpose of the new rules is to give the town some of its own enforcement power, Twitchell said.

“We had nothing to do to move forward and get something done,” Twitchell said. “This gives us a little teeth.”

The town’s new ordinance is modeled on one implemented in 2013 in Bangor. Other towns and cities, including Augusta, are looking at similar ordinances to deal with blighted properties.

The new ordinance requires property owners to register a property with the town six months after it becomes vacant. A one-year vacant building registration permit costs $250 and requires an inspection from the code enforcement officer to make sure the building meets standards, including protection from intruders and deterioration by the weather.

The ordinance requires that doors and windows are weather-tight and closed to animals, the roof must be tight and prevent leaks and seepage, the building and grounds must be sanitary and kept in good repair, the structure and foundation and exterior walls must be stable and secure, and there are other requirements.

On the application itself, the owner is required to include the contact information for a person authorized to deal with the building and any code violations, at least one property manager responsible for taking care of the building and the person’s 24-hour contact number, and the bank or lender with an interest in the property.

A placard placed on the front door of the vacant building will list the contact information of the property agent and manager.

Along with the permit, the ordinance requires property owners to submit a letter of intent, indicating how long the property will remain vacant and a plan for property maintenance and a timeline for rehabilitation, removal or demolition.

Violators of the ordinance can be fined at least $100 and up to $2,500 for each violation and each separate day a violation occurs in line with state law.

The ordinance doesn’t apply to properties owned by members of the armed forces on active duty, vacation homes, or places owned by “snowbirds” and other people away for extended periods of time.

Code enforcement officer Dabney Lewis said on Wednesday the ordinance would help the town get in touch with property owners, which has been a challenge. The 180 days owners are given to register properties, however, was too long, Lewis said.

“That won’t help with cleaning up properties. It will be six months before we know whether it is vacant,” he said. He would prefer to see the 60-day requirement that was included in an earlier draft of the ordinance, but that was amended Monday to give people more time to deal with the properties.

The ordinance passed Monday was a slimmed-down version of a draft considered by the council in March. That ordinance would have made it easier for the town to enforce maintenance standards on apartment buildings and multi-family homes in town.

On Wednesday Lewis said he still sees many safety and building violations in the apartments in Winslow, but he has to go through a lengthy court process to get anything done about the problems.

Twitchell said on Wednesday he didn’t want the ordinance to become too broad, but to focus on blighted properties.

“This isn’t your run of the mill ‘Hey, you need to mow your lawn’ thing,” Twitchell said.

“Some towns go way beyond what I wanted to do. I just wanted to take care of abandoned properties,” he said. “I didn’t want to get in that deep.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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