Edgecomb wants to ‘put some teeth’ into property maintenance ordinance

Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:00am

    Edgecomb selectmen are preparing to resolve an ongoing problem involving unkempt lawns in town. Selectmen recently received a letter complaining that certain properties on Middle and River roads are filled with debris. On May 30, selectmen discussed how best to address the issue with homeowners. The lack of a clear ordinance is a major obstacle in selectmen’s path. "I don’t know what authority the board has because our ordinances don’t have any bite. We can’t really do anything unless there is a health hazard,” Selectman Mike Smith said.  “I’m sure we could address it with them, but I’m not sure what good that would do.”

    Selectmen Smith and Lyn Norgang have both seen the properties and reported seeing “bags of trash” on the lawns and metal products strewn along the properties. “One looks like it’s vacant. I’m not sure anybody lives there,” Norgang said. Smith responded the property was occupied. For Norgang and Selectman Michael Maxim, this is the first time they are dealing with this complaint, but Smith has dealt with the same complaints in the past.

    While the properties may look like junk yards, Smith said they were not. “They don’t fit the legal criteria, but there is stuff all over both lawns,” he said. Previous boards have approached the property owners with limited success, according to Smith.

    Selectmen decided to send property owners a letter to request they remove the debris and maintain their property better. Selectmen will also enlist the ordinance review committee and planning board to consider a revised ordinance to deal with these situations.

    In other action, selectmen are struggling to find a policy for dealing with residents who remain living on foreclosed properties. Selectmen have dealt with two recent instances in which residents lived for years in a foreclosed property. One resident recently bought the property back for a second time after remaining in the home for a decade-plus. Another resident was not as lucky. The home was destroyed in a fire last month. “There is no obligation to find them another living space,” Smith said. “But it brings up the question of how we deal with these situations going forward.”

    Selectmen are considering using the same policy for disposing of tax-acquired land as one used for foreclosed homes. In 2016, selectmen created a policy where the foreclosed property was offered back to the former owner if they covered back taxes and legal costs. If the former owner declines, then selectmen contact abutters to seek their interest. If abutters are not interested, selectmen put the property out to bid. 

    A May 2 meeting in Edgecomb with Maine Department of Transportation officials about the 2024 Route 27 project did not leave any local leaders satisfied. After MDOT representatives explained the $10.1 million project, described as “pavement preservation,” Edgecomb and Boothbay selectmen along with state Rep. Holly Stover all voiced frustration with the lack of safety improvements needed now. Boothbay selectmen and Stover have sent a written response to DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note seeking a safety remedy this year. 

    The two towns and Stover hoped department officials would agree to fix many of the potholes a year ahead of the 2024 project.

    Edgecomb is sending its own letter which may have a different tone. Smith told his fellow Edgecomb selectmen that Boothbay and Stover had written “growlie” letters to MDOT seeking 2023 Route 27 safety improvements. “I think we take a different approach. I think we should ask them to do it and do it right whether it’s this year or not,” he said. Maxim and Norgang agreed. Each selectman will draft their Route 27 concerns and send them to board secretary Barbara Brennan who will craft a response to the state. 

    Selectmen meet next at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 13.