AUGUSTA — Chunks the size of softballs fall from a building and unfit living conditions threaten tenants’ health.

Add to those the collapsing roofs, rotting porches and piles of trash that spill out of buildings and into yards and streets.

These are some of the issues that plague several buildings in Augusta.

And behind many of these problematic properties are absentee, unresponsive owners, including large banks or limited liability companies that make it hard or impossible for city officials to determine who or what owns certain buildings.

In the end, Augusta officials find themselves dealing with many of the same properties for years.

This house at 57 Green St., a historic district in Augusta, is vacant and has had issues for years, according to officials. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

At the City Council’s request, code officers have cracked down on violators of city property maintenance rules, with one code officer now going out and looking for violations.


Previously, the city responded only when complaints were lodged or when properties were considered so dangerous that action was demanded, according to Rob Overton, the city’s director of code enforcement.

“This is a list of properties where verbal communication has not been successful so we’ve moved those to violations. There’s probably twice as many properties that we are currently dealing with that are not yet on a list like this,” Overton told city councilors recently, referring to a list of nearly 50 properties in Augusta that have unresolved code violations that have drawn notices from the city’s code office.

They include what Overton said might be the most expensive building he has ever considered declaring dangerous, at 74 Water St., in the north end of downtown at the corner of Water and Laurel streets.

It is a vacant, hulking, four-story, brick-and-concrete building where Overton said violations include broken or boarded windows, deteriorating concrete, piles of trash outside and severe erosion. The building is owned by Rockland Realty LLC and assessed at $233,700, according to city records.

There is also a four-bedroom house at 26 North St. with a leaking roof and an exterior that is not maintained. It is owned by an investment group with multiple properties.

“If you looked at these properties,” Overton said, “you would not believe they’re actively managed. Everywhere you look is a code violation or an ordinance violation.”


Overton said neither owner of the properties has complied with the city’s orders to fix the problems. He did say a lawyer representing the owner of the 74 Water St. building, after receiving a second notice of violation from the city, claimed the issues in the notice had been addressed.

A visit to the property the same day showed piles of trash remained outside the building Overton said.

Overton also said the case involving the building at 74 Water St. will likely be forwarded to city councilors, who will decide if they consider the property dangerous.

The owner of 26 North St. will likely be brought to court if nothing is done to address problems at the property, according to Overton.

Overton said the North Street building is owned by an investment group that owns more than a dozen buildings in Augusta, including others on the list presented last week to city councilors.

The investment group has reportedly said a former building manager embezzled a large amount of money and they cannot locate the former employee. Thus, they said they have been unable to make good on plans to maintain or repair their properties.


City officials said building owners sometimes let properties deteriorate because they do not have the money or ability to maintain or repair them. In such cases, code officers might show leniency and allow owners more time to comply with orders to make improvements or bring buildings to code.

Overton said the most problematic and troublesome properties are often owned by national or international banks and mortgage companies. With those, it can be difficult to reach anyone responsible for the properties or to get them to make repairs.

Officials at one mortgage company, Overton said, openly mocked city officials for trying to get them to fix up their property in Augusta.

“These situations don’t occur with the local banks. We only see it with the global or at least national-level banks,” Overton said of properties that go unmaintained and owners who ignore the city’s demands for improvements.

Overton said field service agents for Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, which apparently owns the vacant, falling-down, unsalvageable waterfront property at 1055 Tasker Road on Togus Pond, “were actually combative with us, sort of mocking our attempts to have this building cleaned up.”

Overton said the building, which has drawn complaints from neighbors, is expected to be one of several to be brought to the city council for action, including deeming it dangerous.


Maine law allows municipalities to raze buildings deemed dangerous. To deem a building dangerous, state statute stipulates officials must “find that the building is structurally unsafe, unstable or unsanitary; constitutes a fire hazard; is unsuitable or improper for the use or occupancy to which it is put; constitutes a hazard to health or safety because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment; or is otherwise dangerous to life or property.”

Generally, when Augusta declares a building dangerous, it orders the owner to either repair it or remove it within a specified timeframe, often 30 days.

If no action is taken, which can be as simple as filing a plan to address the problems, the city can step in, fix the issues or have the building torn down. The owner is then billed for the costs. And if no payment is received, the city can place a lien on the property.

When city councilors asked what they could do to help address the large number of problematic properties in Augusta, Overton said a start would be to hire another code enforcement officer to join the two that now work with him.

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