Charlemont to hold hearing on condemnation of building tonight

Recorder/Paul Franz
This building, located at 122 Main St. in Charlemont Center will be the subject of a condemnation hearing tonight.

Recorder/Paul Franz This building, located at 122 Main St. in Charlemont Center will be the subject of a condemnation hearing tonight.

CHARLEMONT — A condemnation hearing is scheduled tonight for a rundown Main Street apartment building, which has already come before the Board of Health in two earlier hearings.

The property is located at 122 Main St., and the hearing begins at 7:45 p.m. in Town Hall.

The hearing comes 10 days after an advisory group, called the 122 Main Street Committee, told selectmen they recommend pursuing condemnation because the owners’ efforts to improve the building haven’t brought it up to inhabitable conditions. Furthermore, it appeared that new tenants may have moved in, despite an agreement with the building manager not to add tenants until conditions in the building were improved and the building was inspected.

The building owner is Bayview Loan Servicing LLC of Coral Gables, Fla., which acquired the apartment building in 2011, when it was in foreclosure.

The building has the capacity for 15 apartments, but currently has somewhere between two to four tenants. One concern is that town officials don’t know how many people may be living there, and without a condemnation order, they don’t have the authority to enter and find out, unless invited by either landlord or tenants.

On April 1, selectmen met with the 122 Main Street Committee, Regional Health Agent Glen Ayers, the Board of Health, the building inspector, and the police and fire chiefs to discuss pursuing condemnation.

“This is not just a Board of Health issue, but a Building Inspector issue,” said Robert Lingle, health board chairman. “There are people coming and going.”

Building Inspector James Cerone told selectmen that the building, not far from the Hawlemont Regional School, hasn’t had a certificate of occupancy since 2010.

“Nobody knows where the well is,” Cerone added.

Selectman Vaughn Tower said a former resident of the building told him that the tap water was brown.

“It’s supposed to be tested,” Tower added.

Lingle said the building owners have already been fined $900 by the state for water/Department of Environmental Protection violations.

“There has to be a potable water supply,” said Regional Health Agent Glen Ayers. “This has to go through approved processes with DEP, and it hasn’t.”

Ayers said the apartment building’s drinking water is considered “a public water supply” because there are potentially 15 apartments available that could house up to 25 residents.

“They do not have an approved water source, and that in itself is a condemnable position,” said Ayers. “The expense that DEP is going to require would be at least $60,000.”

Ayers said the building owner would have to put in a second well — which isn’t possible on the available property — or put in a water storage tank with storage capacity of about two days’ storage.

“The basement has been chronically wet for so long that there is structural decay,” added Ayers.

Town officials were also concerned that the current owners are trying to sell the building, and that the town would have to go through the same remediation efforts with a new owner.

“They have not brought it up to minimum condition, where they can unload it,” said Ayers.

Ayers said that once notice of a condemnation hearing is issued the Board of Health, the owner must notify any prospective buyers of the possibility that the building will be condemned. The Board of Health has already held two condemnation hearings, but did not condemn the building, to give the building manager time to fix things.

Ayers said constant mold and dampness on the first floor is another health hazard. He said he has some “horrendous photos of conditions that people have been living in.”

“This property has been declining for a long time, and hasn’t had an owner with the resources to maintain it,” said Lingo. “I started getting complaints when I started working for the town six or seven years ago.”

When the bank took over, more than half the people living there hadn’t paid rent in years, according to Lingle. He said James Greelish of Shrewsbury, who manages the building, went through processes to remove the people out who were not paying rent.

Lingle said Greelish has made some repairs to the building that are “band-aids,” because they don’t address the most serious problems.

“Everybody has run out of patience,” said Lingle.

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