[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Agawam 5-8-2020 by Ord. No. TOR-2020-2. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 78, Blighted Properties, adopted 6-15-2015 by TOR-2015-6.
It is hereby found and declared that there exist within the Town of Agawam numerous real properties which are in a blighted, vacant and/or foreclosing condition. Many of these properties are essentially abandoned. Some are in violation of multiple aspects of state and local building and sanitary codes. The owners of record are often times large financial institutions located out of state, making enforcement of the codes very difficult. These code violations may include, but are not limited to, unoccupied buildings susceptible to vandalism and/or open structures rendering them unsafe and dangerous, yards full of litter and trash, unsecured houses, unshoveled snow rendering sidewalks impassable, and overgrown grass and foliage.
The existence of such blight contributes to the decline of city neighborhoods. It is further found that the existence of such blighted properties, if abandoned, encourages temporary occupancy, by transients, drug users and persons engaged in criminal activity, adversely affecting the economic well-being of the Town of Agawam and the health, safety and welfare of Agawam's residents and first responders, creates significant costs to Agawam by virtue of the need for constant monitoring and frequent boarding and securing.
It is further found that many of the blighted properties can be rehabilitated, reconstructed, demolished and/or reused so as to provide decent, safe, sanitary housing or commercial facilities, and that such rehabilitation, reconstruction, demolition and/or reuse would eliminate, remedy and prevent the adverse conditions described above.
It is the intent of this chapter to protect and preserve public safety, security and quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters and neighborhoods by:
Requiring all residential, commercial and industrial property owners, including lenders, trustees and service companies, to properly maintain blighted and/or foreclosing properties; and
Regulating the maintenance of blighted and/or foreclosing residential, commercial and industrial properties to prevent blighted and unsecured properties.
When used in this chapter, unless a contrary intention clearly appears, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
- BLIGHTED PREMISES
- Any building, structure, parcel of land, or any part of a building or structure that is a separate unit, whether commercial or residential, whether occupied or unoccupied, whether in foreclosure or not, in which at least one of the following conditions exists:
- A. The premises is not being adequately maintained and secured as documented by the Enforcement Officer (as the term is defined herein) based upon, without limitation, the following factors: missing or boarded windows or doors; collapsing or missing walls, roof or floor; siding that is seriously damaged or missing; fire damage; a foundation that is structurally faulty; accumulation of interior furniture outside; garbage, trash, junk; hazardous materials; unmaintained pools or other sources of stagnant water; inoperable cars, boats, motorcycles or other inoperable machinery; or other refuse (unless otherwise licensed to do so).
- B. It has been cited for violations as documented by the Building Commissioner, the Inspector of Buildings, the Director of Public Health, the Sanitarian, the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief and/or their designated agents, and said violations have not been corrected.
- C. It is attracting illegal activity as documented by the Police Department and/or an appropriate agent or department of the Town of Agawam.
- D. It is a fire hazard as documented by the Fire Department.
- E. Because of fire, wind or other natural disaster, or because of physical deterioration, it is no longer habitable as a dwelling or useful for the purpose for which the completed structure was originally intended;
- F. It is a vacant building as defined hereunder; or
- G. It is determined by the, Building Commissioner, the Inspector of Buildings, the Director of Public Health, or the Sanitarian that the building, structure or parcel of land is in a condition which poses a serious threat to safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the Town of Agawam.
- An independent structure having a roof supported by columns or walls, resting on its own foundations and designed for shelter, housing or enclosure of persons, animals or property of any kind.
- BUILDING INSPECTOR
- The Inspector of Buildings.
- The Town of Agawam.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- The Inspector of Buildings, Director of Public Health, the Sanitarian, Police Chief, Fire Chief and/or their designated agents.
- The process by which a property placed as a security for a real estate loan is prepared for sale to satisfy the debt if the borrower defaults.
- INITIATION OF THE FORECLOSURE PROCESS
- Taking any of the following actions:
- LOCAL AGENT
- An agent located within 20 driving miles' distance of the property in question.
- The creditor, including but not limited to service companies, lenders in a mortgage agreement and any agent, servant, or employee of the mortgagee, or any successor in interest and/or assignee of the mortgagee's rights, interests, or obligations under the mortgage agreement.
- Any individual, business entity, voluntary association or nonprofit organization, which alone or jointly or severally with others:
- A. Has legal title to any building, structure, and property.
- B. Has care, charge, or control of any such building, structure or property in any capacity, including but not limited to agent, executor, executrix, administrator, administratrix, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title.
- C. Is a lessee under a written agreement; or
- D. Is a mortgagee in possession of any such property; or
- E. Is an agent, trustee, or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control of such building, structure or property.
- F. Is a trustee who holds, owns or controls mortgage loans for mortgage-backed securities transactions and has initiated the foreclosure process.
- Any real residential, commercial, or industrial property or portion thereof, located in the Town of Agawam, including buildings or structures situated on the property. For purposes of this chapter, "property" does not include property owned or subject to the control of the Town of Agawam or any of its governmental bodies.
- A court-appointed individual who serves as a general contractor and whose duties and powers shall be specified by the court in accordance with the provisions of M.G.L. c. 111, § 127I.
- Measures that are taken to prevent unauthorized persons access to the property, including but not limited to erecting fencing around the property, boarding up doors and windows and the like.
- VACANT BUILDING
- Any commercial or industrial building in which no person or entity actually conducts a lawfully licensed business in said building; or any residential building in which no person lawfully resides in any part of the building; or a mixed-use building in which neither licensed business nor a lawful resident exists. Further, any building in which many of the total exterior windows and doors are broken, boarded or open without a functioning lock shall be deemed "vacant."
No owner of real property located within the Town of Agawam shall allow, create or maintain or cause to be created or maintained any blighted premises.
Investigation. The enforcement officer may undertake an investigation of any alleged violation of this section upon his or her own initiative or shall, upon receipt of a complaint from any individual, civic organization or other governmental agency, undertake an investigation of the alleged violation.
Orders to take corrective action. Upon a finding of a violation of the provisions of this section, the enforcement officer shall serve notice of the violation and an order to correct such violation upon the owner of the property by certified mail or by in-hand service by a person authorized to do such. The order shall require the owner to take one or more of the following actions to bring the property into compliance with the requirements of this section within 30 days of receipt of such order:
To file a completed application with the Inspectional Services Department and any required plans for a permit for repair or rehabilitation of the building or structure and a schedule indicating a completion date for such work or its various phases. All work performed pursuant to this subsection shall be completed within 90 days of the date the order is received unless the enforcing officer permits a greater amount of time. However, the enforcement officer shall not allow more than 180 days from the date the order was received.
To file a completed application with the Inspectional Services Department and any required plans for a permit for demolition of the building or structure and a schedule indicating a completion date for such work in its various phases. All work performed pursuant to this subsection shall be completed within 90 days of the date the order is received unless the enforcing officer permits a greater amount of time. However, the enforcement officer shall not allow more than 180 days from the date the order was received.
To take any action that the enforcement officer deems necessary to correct the violations of this section in order to assist the Town of Agawam in protecting the public health, safety and welfare.
Recovery of costs. Whenever a property owner fails, neglects or refuses to make repairs or take other corrective actions specified in the order, the city official may undertake such repairs or actions, when in his or her judgment a failure to make the necessary repairs or corrective actions will endanger the public health, safety and welfare. The city may seek a court-appointed receiver to manage the property and bring said property into compliance with all applicable statutes, regulations and codes.
Notice of the intention of the city to make such repairs or other corrective actions shall be served on the owner by certified mail or by service in hand by a person duly authorized to do such. When the repairs are made or other corrective actions are taken by the Town of Agawam, the cost of such repairs shall constitute a debt in favor of the city against the owner of the repaired building or structure. In the event that the owner fails, neglects or refuses to pay the city the amount of the debt within 30 days of the receipt of the notice of the debt, the city may place a lien on the property for such debt and/or may initiate a civil action against the owner in a court of competent jurisdiction to recover the debt.
Within 30 days of a premises being deemed blighted as defined within this chapter, each owner of such blighted premises and/or vacant building shall register said premises/building with the Town of Agawam's Legal Department. All registrations must state the owner's name, mailing address, telephone number and email address if the individual has an email address. The mailing address shall not be a post office box.
If none of the owner(s) are at an address within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the registration shall also include the name, address, phone number and email address of a person who resides in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who shall be designated as the responsible local agent for purposes of securing and maintaining the property, for the purposes of notification in the event of an emergency affecting the public health, safety and welfare, and for service of any and all notices issued pursuant to this chapter.
The failure to timely register a vacant building shall be a violation of this chapter.
All property registrations pursuant to this chapter are valid for one calendar year from the date when the registration is received by the Agawam Legal Department. An annual registration fee of $500 must accompany the registration form. Subsequent registrations and fees are due at least 30 days prior to the date of expiration of the previous registration. Subsequent registrations must certify whether the property remains vacant and/or remains in foreclosure, as the case may be.
Properties that are owner occupied, being actively marketed by a local real estate agent or broker or are temporarily vacant for one year or less due to vacation or pending probate transfer are exempt from the registration fee, provided the property is secured and maintained in compliance with the requirements of this chapter.
Any owner who has registered a property under this chapter must report any change in information contained in the registration within 30 days of the change.
Once the property is no longer vacant or is sold, the owner shall provide the Agawam Legal Department with written notice of legal occupancy or change in ownership, as the case may be.
Failure to timely register and pay the registration fee for any vacant or blighted building or building going through the foreclosure process shall be a violation of this chapter, and a fee shall be imposed as a municipal charges lien on the property in accordance with M.G.L. c. 40, § 58 as voted by the Agawam City Council.
Any blighted premises registered with the Town of Agawam prior to enactment of this chapter is required to register again upon passage of this chapter and comply with all the registration terms contained herein.
Properties subject to this section shall comply with 780 CMR 116.2, Standards for making buildings safe or secure, and shall be maintained in accordance with all applicable sanitary codes, building codes and local regulations.
The local owner or local agent must inspect and maintain the property on a monthly basis for the duration of the vacancy. Lawns and other plantings must be maintained during the growing season and walks must be kept clear of snow and ice during winter weather. Excessive overgrowth of vegetation will be considered a violation of this ordinance when in the professional judgement of the inspector there is harborage of pests and nuisance wildlife, fire loading or blocking of egress.
The property must contain a posting with the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the local owner or local agent responsible for the maintenance. This sign must be posted at the front of the property and must be legible and clearly visible from the public way and/or street.
Any plumbing or fixtures in the building shall be drained and winterized to prevent freezing and the associated damage. This process must include the protection of the water meter.
Excluding emergency repairs, it is prohibited to use tarps for roof and building repairs. Additionally, the use of tarps for vehicle covers, or temporary canopies, enclosures, and/or awnings is prohibited in any outdoor area visible from any public right-of-way.
Once the property is no longer vacant or is sold, the owner must provide proof of sale or written notice of occupancy to the the Agawam Legal Department.
This chapter shall be enforced by the Building Inspector, the Director of Public Health, the Sanitarian, the Police Chief, the Fire Chief and/or their designated agents.
Each violation of any provision of this chapter shall be considered a separate offense, and each day that any violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.
Upon failure to comply with any order issued under this chapter, the city may, in addition to other penalties and actions, bring civil or legal action against the owner to require compliance with the order, including but not limited to seeking a court-approved receiver for the property in violation.
The imposition of any fine shall not be construed to prevent the enforcement of other laws upon the premises or prevent the initiation of other enforcement measures or penalties. Failure to pay any fine arising from the enforcement of this chapter shall constitute a debt in favor of the city. The city may place a lien on the property for such debt and/or initiate a civil action against the owner in a court of competent jurisdiction to recover the debt.
The provisions of this chapter are effective immediately upon passage, and all provisions shall be enforced immediately, but no monetary fine shall be imposed pursuant hereto until 90 days after passage.