AUGUSTA — City councilors are scheduled Thursday to take a final vote on a permanent bedbug ordinance and discuss a controversial proposed moratorium on any new group and boarding homes or rooming houses.

The proposed 180-day moratorium banning the issuance of any permits or Planning Board reviews for group and boarding homes or rooming houses was proposed in response to some council members’ concerns that the prominent St. Mark’s Episcopal Church property could be sold and turned into a facility potentially providing food and shelter to homeless people. The property abuts a residential neighborhood and the city’s Lithgow Public Library, which is scheduled to re-open after renovations later this month.

The bedbug ordinance up for a final vote Thursday is a permanent version similar to an ordinance adopted as an emergency measure May 5. The ordinance gives the city the authority to require landlords to bring in pest management professionals to exterminate bedbugs when an infestation is discovered. It also requires tenants to notify their landlords if they know or suspect there is an infestation of the blood-sucking bugs in their rental unit, and prohibits them from trying to treat the infestation themselves.

The emergency ordinance was adopted after a bedbug infestation was discovered by city workers at two Water Street boarding homes.

The proposed permanent ordinance was modified after officials met with a group of stakeholders, including landlords, property managers, tenant advocates, pest control workers and state health officials.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the ordinance draft hasn’t been changed since the permanent version was proposed. If approved Thursday, it would take effect in 30 days.


That will be a couple of weeks after the emergency ordinance expires, so there will be at least a brief period when the city returns to having no bedbug provisions in city ordinances.

Bridgeo said Tuesday that doesn’t concern him, in large part because he doesn’t expect the city to need to use the bedbug ordinance except in cases of a severe infestation about which a landlord or others involved fail to take action.

He said the city didn’t end up needing to invoke any of the provisions of the emergency ordinance in the Water Street infestation because the firm which owns the buildings, River City Realty, was cooperative and the situation is being addressed.

“It would be unlikely we would need to use that” bedbug ordinance, Bridgeo said. “I hope we never have to, though it will be good to have on the books” in case it is needed.

Bedbugs also were found recently in the General Assistance suite at Augusta City Center, forcing the temporary relocation of some services to other parts of the building.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss, but not vote on, the proposed moratorium on group and boarding homes and rooming houses.


The moratorium is sponsored by Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti, whose ward includes the west side neighborhood surrounding the St. Mark’s property. That property includes the church as well as a historic home that served as its rectory, the former St. Mark’s Home, and a parish hall that provides space now for charitable organizations that give people in need free food, clothing and other essential items.

Church officials are looking to sell the church, the rectory and the parish hall, and they are seeking proposals from organizations to which they would give the former St. Mark’s Home, with an endowment of about $340,000, to continue the church’s mission of helping area people in need.

Conti and Mayor David Rollins have expressed concern about reports that Bread of Life Ministries might be interested in acquiring the property and could move its homeless shelter and its soup kitchen to the site. They said the St. Mark’s property could end up with a new use that is incompatible with the neighborhood.

Rollins said he doesn’t think those uses would be allowed under the site’s current zoning, but Conti proposed the moratorium to give city officials time to study the issue and clarify zoning language regarding group homes, boarding homes and rooming houses.

Thursday’s council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:


• Discuss the city’s capital improvement plan for 2017 to 2021;

• Consider authorizing Bridgeo to sign an agreement with the state Department of Transportation allowing the state to use city-owned Mount Hope Cemetery to reach city and state land where the state plans to remove trees from about 1 acre, out of concern that the trees interfere with the approach to an airport runway;

• Consider rezoning small portions of Western Avenue and Eastern Avenue;

• Consider parking rules changes on Arsenal Street; and

• Consider authorizing Bridgeo to apply for $250,000 in substance abuse grant funding from the state Department of Public Safety to help substance abusers who voluntarily seek help to obtain treatment.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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