Auburn council to focus on problem buildings

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AUBURN — Councilors will be asked to condemn an abandoned South Goff Street building in November.

Eric Cousens, the city’s deputy director of planning, said city staff has a list of more than 100 vacant or abandoned buildings but only six are in especially dire condition.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with staff on those buildings, with them being broken into and people going in,” Cousens told councilors at a Monday night workshop meeting. “We spend a lot of time chasing down the owner — sometimes it’s a bank, sometimes it’s an individual that doesn’t have the resources left and they can’t afford to keep the property secure.”

Councilors set aside $150,000 in their annual capital budget to handle dangerous buildings. Cousens said he plans to bring the house at 6 South Goff St. to councilors at their Nov. 3 meeting.

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“I don’t want to discuss specifics of any building tonight, but I would be happy to hear if councilors have any buildings on this list that are top priorities,” he said.

Councilors will review staff’s records on the property at the Nov. 3 meeting.

Cousens said the building’s owner died years ago and the city has had no luck contacting the bank that holds the mortgage. It’s been vacant for years and is difficult to secure. The structure is falling apart and the grounds are covered with mold.

“We’ve spent at least a year or more trying to get someone to move on this building,” Cousens said. “With the gentleman gone, the bank just hasn’t been responsive. There is a lot of work that’s gone into this on the front end.”

If councilors choose to condemn the property, Cousens said the bank will have 30 days to either repair the property or demolish it. If the bank does not act, the city can demolish the property and place a lien on it to recover costs.

If the lien and the taxes are not paid, the city can foreclose and take over the property.

“And hopefully be able to sell it and make back our costs,” Cousens said.

Cousens said he’d like to take care of the remaining five properties on the list soon.

Ward 1 Councilor Tizz Crowley said she was in favor.

“Based on the risk, I’m anxious to get these fire hazards and safety hazards taken care of as soon as possible,” Crowley said.

But Ward 5’s Leroy Walker said he had concerns.

“I don’t want it to be in a situation where we are making it easy for these people to let their places go to hell because they don’t have the money to take care of them,” Walker said. “I want us to get the people who own them, whether it’s the banks or whoever, and push them to whatever limit it takes.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

Problem vacant Auburn buildings

Properties considered the worst, according to city staff

33 South Goff St.

181 Manley Rd.

16 Walnut St.

29 Highland Ave.

16 Newbury St.

12 Patton St.

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