A remedy for neighborhood eyesores?

Photo by Ron Leir Neglected, empty house at 229 Chestnut St. is being targeted for remedial action.
Photo by Ron Leir
Neglected, empty house at 229 Chestnut St. is being targeted for remedial action.


For the past two years, the two-story house at 229 Chestnut St. has stood empty and neglected – an eyesore on an otherwise well-kept block dominated by one- and two-family homes.

It turns out that a California-based entity pays the taxes on behalf of the bank that has title to the Chestnut St. property and that a foreclosure action against the former owner enacted in August 2014 has never closed, according to town attorney Greg Castano Sr.

Meanwhile, the property’s physical condition continues to worsen: front steps are crumbling, windows are boarded up or exposed, the roof leaks. “We’ve cut the weeds and fixed the sidewalk,” said town Construction Official Michael Martello, “but it would probably cost over $50,000 to repair the roof and windows.”

With the bank sitting on the sidelines, the town – short of laying out big bucks for a contractor to undertake repairs – says it is frustrated over its inability to find a fix for this property and others like it and/or demolition, depending on the severity of the problem. Until now, perhaps.

At last Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos said the town is exploring a 2013 state law that appears to permit municipalities to impose fines on out-of-state foreclosing mortgagees for failure to maintain their properties.

Further, the mayor said, this law also appears to allow residents to file a petition with the local governing body that would trigger some kind of action for buildings – residential or commercial – deemed unsafe for habitation or use.

The law also appears to give a municipality the option of suing the bank that holds the title to an unfit property, Castano noted.

Santos said the law could offer the antidote for going after “speculators anywhere in the country” who end up “trading these [title papers] like junk bonds.”

Town-wide, the mayor said, there are probably “less than 10” properties comparable to 229 Chestnut, “unoccupied, some foreclosed on, some not,” that are crying out for corrective steps.

“Let’s identify the worst ones that need an extreme remedy and start the process of noticing the title-holders by next year,” the mayor urged.

One property that might fit the bill, he said, is a residential building in the 300 block of Forest St. which, Martello described as “ an unsafe structure with open doors and windows” and where, Santos said, “there is a retaining wall collapsing into a neighboring property.”

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