BATH — The City Council is moving toward adopting strict new rules for vacant buildings in the city.

“We’ve had a number of complaints about vacant buildings, and these are buildings where no one is living in the house,” City Manager Peter Owen said this month.

The council gave initial support to the ordinance during a meeting July 11 and is scheduled to take a final vote Wednesday.

Even if the buildings are owned and the owners are paying taxes, the city lacks an ordinance to deal with unoccupied buildings unless they pose a hazard. The council rejected an earlier proposed set of rules because they were “too heavy-handed,” Owen said.

“Bath did not want to get into … policing the height of people’s grass and whether the fences had recently been painted,” he said. “But we do have buildings that are affecting (neighboring) housing values, and that’s because we may have broken windows, we may have holes in the roof. … This (ordinance) is an effort to try to address those issues.”

The proposed ordinance defines a vacant building as being unoccupied for more than 30 days, with the owner or mortgage holders having no concrete plans or timeline for future occupation.

Roofs would have to be “structurally sound,” and doors and windows “substantially weather tight” to prevent animals from entering. All exterior doors of vacant structures that could be dangerous to emergency responders would have to be placarded. Fences, barriers, exterior walls, chimneys, smokestacks, roofs, decks, porches, balconies, signs, awnings, fire escapes and ductwork would also have to be structurally fit.

Owners of buildings either vacant or about to become so would have to provide Code Enforcement Officer Scott Davis with the contact information of a person to reach should problems with the property arise. Code enforcement and fire officers must have access to the buildings in order to ensure ordinance compliance, building condition, and to identify any hazards to emergency responders.

“Some of these buildings, the roofs are caving in,” Davis told the council. “One on High Street’s missing the floor. You walk in the front door, you’re in the cellar.”

In cases of violation, Davis would serve a written notice mandating corrective action be taken within 30 days. If they fail to comply, building owners would incur penalties each day they are in violation.

The city has a registry of about 35 vacant properties, of which eight are the most egregious, with holes in the roof and plywood on the windows, Davis said. “As these buildings come to my attention, I’ll get with the owner and cause them to give us what we need to make this work,” he said.

Alex Lear can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 113, or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: learics

Read this story in The Forecaster.

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