Mayor proposes ordinance that would regulate vacant properties

GREENFIELD — Town Council will begin reviewing an ordinance proposed by the mayor that would require all property owners to maintain their properties, at least to the point where they don’t abandon them and let them slip into disrepair.

The council’s Economic Development Committee will hold a public hearing on the matter tonight at 6:30 p.m. at 20 Sanderson St. (the former Youth Center).

Mayor William Martin said the Vacant Property and Nuisance Ordinance is intended to help protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Greenfield, while preventing blight.

“We want to protect property values and neighborhood integrity,” said Martin. “We also want to protect town resources by avoiding the creation of nuisances, which then the town has to deal with at some point.”

Martin said inadequately maintained residential and commercial properties need to be kept safe and sanitary. He said they are a risk for fire, unlawful entry or other public health and safety hazards.

At-large Councilor Patrick Devlin, who is also the chairman of the committee, said there are currently about two dozen vacant or nuisance properties throughout Greenfield and not much to regulate them.

Devlin said he believes the town needs an ordinance, but is concerned about how and by whom it will be enforced.

According to the ordinance, the building inspector would be the enforcer, but Devlin is concerned that the building inspector will have to hire more people.

“We’re hoping to get some ideas during the public hearing,” he said.

According to the proposed ordinance, a nuisance includes, but is not limited to, buildings destroyed by fire, buildings that are deemed uninhabitable, dilapidated property, dangerous or unsafe structures or personal property, overgrown vegetation that could harbor rats and vermin, pools of stagnant water, junk in yards, unregistered vehicles in yards, rubbish and building materials being stored in a yard.

Property owners who abandon or leave a property vacant will need to maintain the property and any buildings on it, comply with fire codes, secure those properties, maintain them in a manner that keeps them clean and free of trash and debris, repair or replace broken windows and doors, and comply with any other town regulations.

Also according to the ordinance, the building inspector or health inspector will investigate any complaints about a property and will always have right of access to do so.

After an inspection, an owner would receive direction from the town about what he or she must do to comply with the ordinance.

If an owner ignored such instruction, a fine of $300 for each violation would be issued each day from that point until the owner came into compliance.

Devlin said he is also concerned about the fee.

“If people can’t afford to clean up their properties, how are they going to afford a $300-a-day fee?” he asked.

After the proposed ordinance leaves the committee, which will make a recommendation, the full council will vote to accept, reject or amend it.

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