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Councilors to tackle town’s vacant properties

Public hearing set for Tuesday

GREENFIELD — A Town Council committee will allow the public to weigh in on a proposed ordinance 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 Economic Development Committee will convene Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., in 20 Sanderson St. to discuss how the town will begin regulating vacant properties.

Mayor William Martin said the Vacant Property and Nuisance Ordinance is intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of 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 has said that 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 would be enforced.

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

“We’re hoping to get a lot of good ideas at the public hearing,” said Devlin.

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 their 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 proposed 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 on, until the owner came into compliance.

Devlin said he is also concerned about the proposed fine, saying if people can’t afford to clean up the property, they aren’t going to be willing or able to pay a $300-a-day fine.

After the committee votes to make its recommendation on the proposed ordinance, which will happen some time after the public hearing, it will go to the council for a full vote. The council may accept an ordinance, reject an ordinance or amend it.

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