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July 30, 2018

Bath council to vote on vacant-building rules

Building owners in Bath may have to renovate their unoccupied properties, if the City Council this week votes to adopt proposed safety and security regulations for vacant residential and commercial structures.

An ordinance introduced July 11 would require doors and windows of vacant buildings to be weather-tight and animal-proof. Roofs, decks, chimneys, fences and other property components would have to be structurally sound. Vacant buildings with dangerous features or conditions must display warning placards under the proposed ordinance, which is posted on the city website.

The draft law defines a vacant building as one that is unoccupied for more than 30 days and for which the owner has no plans or time-frame for reoccupancy.

The council previously considered standards for regulating vacant properties in response to public complaints. But the earlier proposal was rejected for being "too heavy-handed," City Manager Peter Owen told The Forecaster.

"Bath did not want to get into … policing the height of people's grass and whether the fences had recently been painted," he said. "But we do have buildings that are affecting (neighboring) housing values, and that's because we may have broken windows, we may have holes in the roof. … This (ordinance) is an effort to try to address those issues."

Bath currently has a registry of about 35 vacant properties, The Forecaster reported.

The council is scheduled take up the ordinance at its meeting Aug. 1, at 6 p.m., in Bath City Hall, 55 Front St.

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