[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Commissioners of the Town of Westernport 10-5-2015 as §§ 175-130 to 175-138 of the 2015 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Town of Westernport Nuisance and Abandoned Property Abatement Ordinance."
For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions shall apply:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- A residential or commercial property that is not occupied by either the property owner or a legal tenant and is not a viable property because it is:
- The individual holding the position wherein he/she is authorized by the Town Administrator to oversee the Department of Community Development.
- The holder of a security interest in a nuisance property or an abandoned property which is recorded among the land records of Allegany County, Maryland.
- NUISANCE PROPERTY
- A property that is in an unsafe, hazardous or unsanitary condition that:
- The record title holder of a nuisance property or an abandoned property and, if the record title holder is deceased, the record title holder's personal representatives, executors and administrators.
It is hereby declared and ordained by the Mayor and Commissioners of the Town of Westernport to focus on rehabilitating or eliminating abandoned properties and nuisance properties within the Town of Westernport.
The Director is empowered to implement this chapter. Without being required to obtain the approval of the Mayor and Town Commission, he shall be responsible for:
Determining where abandoned properties and nuisance properties exist.
Ascertaining the ownership of abandoned properties and nuisance properties.
With the assistance of the Town Attorney, instituting court proceedings against the owners in furtherance of the provisions of this chapter.
Subject to the hereinafter set forth parameters, negotiating and executing settlement agreements with the owners for the purpose of rehabilitating or demolishing the abandoned properties and nuisance properties, irrespective of whether such settlement agreements are entered into while court proceedings are pending or on a pre-litigation basis.
Proceeding upon such lawsuits that are not settled and seeking court orders that:
Declare the subject properties to be nuisances;
Require the owners to repair and rehabilitate them;
Authorize the Town of Westernport to enter onto the subject properties and demolish them; and/or
Require the owners of such properties that have been demolished to pay the costs of the demolition as well as the Town's attorney fees, court costs and litigation expenses incurred in seeking the relief described herein through the entry of money judgments against the owners.
Unless otherwise authorized by the Mayor and Town Commission, the settlement agreements must provide that:
The repair and rehabilitation costs are to be borne entirely by the owners without contribution from the Town of Westernport;
Property which is not rehabilitated within four months of the date of the settlement agreement shall be demolished; and
With respect to properties to be transferred to the Town of Westernport, the only costs to be incurred by the Town of Westernport in connection with said transfer shall be the deed recording fee, a reasonable deed preparation fee and the delinquent real property taxes and water and sewage fees, as applicable.
Each settlement agreement shall be reduced to the form of a consent decree, to be filed for record in the Circuit Court for Allegany County, Maryland.
At least 30 days prior to the institution of court proceedings, the Director shall mail notice to the owner and mortgagee, if applicable, advising the owner and mortgagee that the property has been identified as a nuisance property and/or an abandoned property and advising the owner and mortgagee that court proceedings will be instituted unless the owner enters into a settlement agreement with the Town of Westernport or otherwise repairs and rehabilitates the property or otherwise remediates the conditions resulting in its designation as a nuisance property and/or an abandoned property. Said notice shall be sent by first-class U.S. mail, postage prepaid, and it shall be mailed to the owner at the owner's address reflected in the records of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation and it shall be mailed to the mortgagee at the mortgagee's address as stated in the recorded instrument creating or perfecting the security interest or at such other address as is reasonably expected to result in the mortgagee's receipt of the notice described herein. In the event the owner cannot be identified, the notice may be provided through publication in a newspaper of general circulation in Allegany County, Maryland.
Named defendants. The court proceedings referenced in this chapter shall be instituted by filing a complaint in the Circuit Court for Allegany County, Maryland. The defendants in such action shall include the owner, the mortgagees, if any, and the plaintiff in any proceeding that was timely filed under § 14-833 (complaints to foreclose right of redemption) of the Tax-Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland and for which the time for securing a decree of foreclosure has not yet expired.
Contents of complaint. The complaint shall include the following information, as applicable:
Copies of any citations for violations of ordinances of the Town of Westernport.
An affidavit stating that:
A settlement agreement has not been entered into; and
The property has not been repaired or rehabilitated and the circumstances resulting in its designation as a nuisance property and/or an abandoned property have not been remediated.
A description of the condition of the property and the facts and circumstances that have resulted in its designation as a nuisance property and/or an abandoned property.
In the event the court enters an order granting the Town of Westernport authorization to demolish a nuisance property or an abandoned property, the costs of demolishing the property and all costs incidental thereto shall be chargeable against the owner and shall constitute a lien upon such property, subordinate only to the lien of unpaid real property and personal property taxes.
Because the purpose of this chapter is to promote and protect the health, safety and general welfare of the Town of Westernport and its occupants, it shall be liberally construed in order to effectuate that purpose.