, Salem, MA

Local News

April 4, 2014

Clock ticking on North Shore eyesores

Cities appoint court receivers to clean up derelict properties


“It’s a great tool for those really tough properties where nothing seems to work,” Driscoll said. “The receiver can actually go onto the property and take over most of the tasks of cleaning it up. Maybe they can even put it into practical use by renting it out.”

Tom St. Pierre, director of inspectional services for Salem, said the story behind 12 Hazel St. is emblematic of the problem facing municipal officials as they try to get rid of derelict properties.

City records show the owner of the property — which St. Pierre says has been vacant for years — owes more than $3,000 in back taxes. Property records show a $20,000 lien related to a court judgement. Foreclosure proceedings were initiated in 2002 and 2006, according to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds, but never went before a judge.

St. Pierre said it’s been impossible to engage the property owner, who lives in Beverly. Attempts to contact the owner for this story were unsuccessful.

The state-run program has overseen the cleanup of at least 345 properties since 2009, including in Peabody, according to Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

State attorneys are currently targeting 241 properties, she said, 42 of which are being handled by receivers.

In Peabody, the city has cleaned up several vacant properties under the program, some just by having the attorney general’s office threaten involving a court-appointed receiver.

“In some cases, just sending a letter was enough,” said Christopher Ryder, chief of staff for Mayor Edward Bettencourt.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are weighing a bill to give towns and cities blanket authority to create registries of vacant properties and charge owners of listed properties a $100 registration fee. A number of North Shore communities have already taken similar steps by enacting local ordinances.

Gloucester created a registry about five years ago to deal with dozens of vacant houses and commercial sites abandoned by lenders and property owners. The city charges landowners an annual $500 fee. The money goes into a maintenance fund.

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