AUGUSTA — A bill enabling cities and towns to better address blighted and abandoned properties gained the unanimous support of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

“Because of abandoned properties in my hometown, we are faced with blight, public safety hazards, theft, vandalism and demolition costs at the taxpayers’ expense,” Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Libby, who sponsored the bill, LD 1203, said the inability cities and towns have in transitioning abandoned properties to new owners, “hamstrings a municipality’s ability to deal with the detrimental effects of abandoned property.”

Over the past four years, taxpayers in Lewiston have spent close to $1.5 million demolishing 58 derelict buildings left vacant by their former owners and the financial institutions holding the mortgages, Libby said.

His bill requires banks to notify a municipality of a property foreclosure and notify the location of the property to the municipality and designate an in-state representative responsible for addressing issues with the property.

The measure also allows a city or town to provide the care, maintenance and security of the property, and recoup the cost of doing so through a supplemental tax on the property.


According to Libby, during hearings on the bill lawmakers learned that once a property has been abandoned, the condemnation process can last 18 to 24 months. During that time, “the dilapidation of these properties almost always includes the same course of events: the pipes freeze; vandals have stripped the boiler and the electrical system of every ounce of copper; and water leaks lead to roof, foundation and mold damage.

“There are several local developers with a track record of returning older, dilapidated buildings back into service, but they are unwilling to navigate a maze of uncertainty when the mortgage holder is unresponsive and based out of state,” Libby said. “This inaction leads to properties sitting vacant, unsecured and uncared for unless the city voluntarily assumes some responsibility for their care at no small cost.”

During a public hearing on the bill, the Lewiston city manager, the Bangor city solicitor, the Maine Municipal Association, and the Maine Mayors Coalition all spoke in favor of the measure. The city managers of Waterville, Augusta and Biddeford also provided written support for the bill.

The bill next goes to the Senate for consideration.

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