EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

May 22, 2013

Council not sold on abandoned homes plan

Public review set for May 30

HAVERHILL — City Councilors agree that Haverhill needs to do more to clean up abandoned and dilapidated homes and crack down on run-away owners. However, they aren’t very impressed with Mayor James Fiorentini’s plan to get the job done.

The mayor proposes requiring owners of abandoned buildings to pay $250 to register them with the city, and to fine those who don’t comply up to $300 a week. Owners, usually a bank or similar entity that holds a mortgage on the property, also would be required to provide contact information for a person or company in charge of maintaining the property. Failing to do so would trigger fines, too.

Under the proposed ordinance, homes would be considered legally abandoned once they are vacant for 90 days and the owner has no plans to return.

”These abandoned homes run down property values for everyone in the neighborhood at the same time that they are increasing their insurance costs,” the mayor said.

The council reviewed the proposal last night and scheduled a vote for June 4. In the meantime, its Administration and Finance Committee will meet May 30 to get input from the public and suggest changes.

Councilor Michael Hart said the intention of the measure is good, but that he believes it would be ineffective.

”Only responsible owners are going to come forward to pay the $250 to register their homes,” Hart said. “The ones who won’t comply are the ones we can’t find now. We’ll make some money with the registration fee, but we’ll still have the same problem with abandoned buildings that we don’t know about. All this will do is create another level of bureaucracy.”

Councilor William Macek noted many abandoned properties are owned by banks outside Massachusetts, or even the United States. He said state intervention is the best way to attack the problem.

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