Councilors to discuss Auburn property codes Monday

AUBURN — Residents are not big fans of a citywide property maintenance code, according to an emailed survey.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss creating a code that could require residents to maintain their homes and property or face city fines or penalties. The discussion is the first item on their 5:30 p.m. workshop agenda Monday night.

Economic Development Director Roland Miller said the idea has been controversial in the past and that's why the city performed an Internet survey this year.

The city considered creating a property maintenance code between 1998 and 2002, but councilors then tabled the idea.

"The recommendation in the past has been not to move forward, but we have a new set of councilors now who don't have that history," Miller said. "So we want to bring that history before them and see where they want to go."

The city has various ordinances now that deal with accumulated trash or debris, a lack of heat, health and safety hazards, and keeping multiple unregistered vehicles. It does not have standards that require lawns be mowed and weeded, or rules that require paint, siding or windows be maintained or replaced.

"We need to have a discussion about how existing codes function and how property maintenance codes function and the issues around them," Miller said.

The city put out the eight-question survey this summer to find out if residents had noticed properties that lacked maintenance and whether they favored new city rules.

Out of 82 responses, most were against property maintenance rules: 47 out of 82 were against regulating lawn height, and 55 were against paint or siding rules. When asked what kind of property should be regulated — rentals, commercial properties, residential properties or foreclosures — a 38 percent majority selected "None of the above."

"This is the same reaction we received from the public when we've talked about it in the past," Miller said. "We didn't have an Internet survey available at that time, but we did reach out to landlord's associations and neighborhood groups and into the community. So that's the kind of discussion we want to have with councilors."

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Why add new codes when code

Why add new codes when code enforcement cannot enforce what is on books now?

FRANK EARLEY's picture

How about dealing with existing problems first.....

I have lived next to a building that has been unlivable for years. It is not boarded up, and I'm just counting the days before something happens there. The building has been fixed up, sold and rented out, from out of state, three times since I've lived next door. every time it's the same. Four families, dozens of kids, they end up not paying rent, using their ovens to heat the apartments, and finally destroying the entire inside before being evicted. This last time is the worst I've seen it. I had to call the Fire Department for running water, visibly pouring from floor to floor. every single door in the building was kicked in before the "tenants" finished being evicted. The basement apartment no longer appears to be an apartment at all, just a refrigerator, a stove and every door and wall destroyed. As I said before, the Fire Dept. as well as the Police have been inside the place. This is a nice neighborhood, I wish they would at least tear this blight down, then go after the owner, I think is from Vermont.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Owner from Vermont

Frank I understand where you coming from, but I was once an owner of an Apartment Building in McFalls, was a nightmare at times tenants move out owing money and leaving junk toys, I remember once we had to shovel the toys into trash bags. Like the small kind of stuff blocks etc.. But then you get the ones that ask please can we have a cat and promise to keep a good clean Kitty Litter box. Yep! Been there done that as for the owners being from Vermont, they probably had no idea the kind of renters we can and do get here in the greater area. Not that all of them are bad, but if they do not pay their rent, and mostly the heating cost must be awful these days, on these old buildings. My building was old and I stock piled rent over the summer to buy heating oil in the winter. And that did not leave much to make huge improvements thankfully my building was not as bad as some. We had to take transmissions out from under the kitchen sink when one tenant moved. Not a easy job to own a building, I understand that years past when the mill workers rented these apartments they many times fixed up their units knowing that the land lords could not do everything and took pride in the way they lived. Kept them clean etc. today with no work or work with little pay, leaves no relief for the tenants either. I am glad I no longer own one with the heating cost of today. Wow! Anyway to bad that the land lords can not throw the tenants into jail for the destruction of the property. But one can not get blood out of a stone, As for my tenant with the Kitty, poop up and down the stairs, that we had to clean after they moved out. Destruction and the attitude that who cares is a blight in itself. The other day while riding by an old farm on Grange Ave. people I know have a farm pond out front, right after they bought the farm the land next door became a sub-division, now several homes, not bad looking however my friends have horses as I have. Anyway riding by I see these small kids playing and throwing the blue rock, that hold the culvert stable out onto the ice. When they saw me the booked it then I could see just what they were doing, I yelled at them that they should not be doing that, as they were fleeing not only are neighbors rude these days but they allow their kids to run wild. My friends said they were glad I told them, and they had caught the kids over there before. Now they figure to post the land, the ice can not be very safe. I can not find it in my heart to blame or want to fine the land lord in this case sounds like, way to many rude tenants with destructive kids, not to speak of the adults. Maybe the neighborhood should get together and send the land lord a nice letter at least asking him to at least board up the place. Sad all the way around that the city like my small town just passed a zoning code about LED lights, to regulate something that given the many zoning codes they have and do not enforce, due to cost or non interest. Seems foolish to me to try to make me or anyone buy paint when we most of us can and do struggle to survive. Now I think that would be a blatant intrusion into my rights to tell me what I can do with property that I am paying plenty of taxes on. And I believe my civil rights would come into play. So my paint is old and is pealing its my place do not abridge my right, like maybe I like the antique look and the stuff in my yard is a treasure not junk. Just ask my neighbor that runs a junk yard at the corner of Main and Bucknam St. Mechanic Falls. My town says though we have no legal junk yards and zoning forbids them, they can not prove it is not his hobby. So first they do not want to pay to enforce the same. Cost to much but the zoning boards continue to make up rules zoning or otherwise that they will only enforce if the right person lives next door. I bet our town manager would not want to live next to a junk yard anymore than you like looking at the run down building. And Yes I bet there are zoning laws that can already make the land lord board up the building. If the city/town wants to push it. Let them enforce the ones already there.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Catherine, I guess there isn't an easy answer.....

I know exactly where your coming from, years ago I had a girlfriend who worked for a cleaning company. All they did was clean out apartments for building owners and property management company's. All the years I knew her I don't think she ever worked outside this particular geographic perimeter called down town Lewiston. This girl would come home from work, you would think she just did a shift in the coal mines. She had some horror stories.
My concerns are more of the public safety kind. My safety to be honest, this building is fifteen or twenty feet from my building. Even closer to our vehicles and most important of all, my new boat. I can remember a few years ago, I was coming home from a doctors appointment in Leeds, I was going by the old "Creamery" building in Turner. I used to live in Turner, and used to wonder about the old abandoned buildings in town, mostly from the historic point of view. I got home in Auburn and promptly heard a call for the Auburn Fire Department to assist in a structure fire in Turner. You guessed it, the "Creamery" after standing there for many decades empty, was no more. That building had withstood storms,winter weather, hurricanes, not to mention all the years it was used as the creamery. All this gone due to a bunch of kids from the high school up the street, hanging out smoking cigarets, in a tinder box, on an old couch. That building must have been on fire when I went by it, or very shortly after. That is the fear I have. All it will take is a group of kids and a strong foot to gain entry and there you have it. They may get away with it for a while, but kids being who they are, well it only a matter of time.
I would love to see this building repaired again, it was repaired and bought up to code at least twice. Its beyond help now, It will need to be gutted, and with a hundred year old building, it's more cost effective to tear it down and start over. Its sad, But I have never seen a building so thoroughly, intentionally destroyed in my life. I'm not talking trash and old toys here, I'm talking destroyed plumbing,heating, and electrical systems. Walls and every door in the building destroyed. One of the apartments looks like one big room. it used to be a four bedroom apartment. Maybe I'm just taking advantage of someone bringing up the topic of building codes in town again. This isn't the first time I've mentioned this building in this forum. I guess I'm just hoping someone might address this problem building before something terrible happens. I probably wouldn't be so nervous about it, but with my my legs being not much more than decoration, if someone were to tell me to hurry, watching me try to walk, would be very entertaining to say the least. lets just hope someone does something before that show goes on..........

Catherine Pressey's picture

Not so fast anymore

Yes it is quite a shame that kids of today, these are the kids that parents are afraid to take a belt to the kid for fear of going to jail and instead of them getting the belt, while young,, Well at least a wee spanking, they get to go to jail as adults. Because there is no limits of things that they can get away with. Just watch the Nanny that goes into homes of poor wayward parents that have lost all control of the even smallest of children. Spare the rod and spoil the child is true in my opinion. Now I bet I get a bunch mad at me for this. Anyhow If I be you Frank I be moving my new boat to a safe storage place, it would be worth the money. And as for you walking to slow, I know what ya mean. My dads legs did not work so well in the day. Thats another story anway these towns need to address the issues already out there much like yourself. Safety is an issue for you or anyone in your home, building etc. Call the city every day and tell them to do something be a pest. Might work they could condemn the building and make the owner tear it down or sell it. Who knows can't hurt they say. Just a phone call away! Or send the City a cirtified letter telling them of your concerns. Sure lots of ways to try to make yourself and your place safer.

Roger  Cyr's picture

property codes

Farmington sure could use this. but the question is will it be enforced? if so,who and how often and what about keeping on it.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Question is:

What do you think? The only way something like this will be enforced is if the place has the right neighbor with money, other than that the city or town will not spend a dime. As for the grass length this is not California or a sub-division with rules. May some like the long grass look lol Or can not afford a new mower! lol

Steve  Dosh's picture

Councilors to discuss Auburn property codes Monday

Councilors , Sunday night , Advent
Good luck and beuna seurté with all this . Even if you have codes , it's the enforcement that is the problem . Is your police force going to want to measure grass height or paint schemes ? Is this the best use of their time and talents ? Talk with the dog catcher . She \ he attempts to enforce statewide \ county , and city codes on a daily basis and probably works for the state as a law enforcement official or as the K9 officer . The local postmen and women might have a perspective on this , too . They are federal employees
i gotta' admit we have lived in several covenanted communities over the years here and overseas being the latest . You may have teams of people who go around here snooping in peoples' yards . Unsavory
The problem in Hawai'i is that ( unlike California or Florida ) we have so many alcoholics and drug addicts they , the teams , are just looking to see if the owner is alive and well and wil pay her/his dues to the association . It's like a huge indian reservation with all attendant problems here . You think i make this stuff up ? A crystal meth lab ( ice ) blew up two years ago near here and the ashes fell on our roof . Luckily , we have a metal roof yet we get our water off it and store it in a catchment tank for showering and the toilet . Crystal meth labs stink , too . It's a tip off ? Melé Kalikimaka from Hawai'i :) h t h , /s Steve


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