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Lisbon law makes demolitions easier

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LISBON – The Town Council voted Wednesday to approve a new law giving the town more authority to repair or remove unsafe buildings.

Under the previous law the town was able to remove buildings considered safety hazards but the process, requiring numerous attempts to reach owners and multiple inspections, would often take more than a year to complete.

“The old law is being replaced by the new law which better outlines what the code enforcement officer has to do, what reports have to be filed when and what courts to go to,” Lisbon attorney Charles B. Nash said.

The new law will reduce the time it takes the town to demolish a hazardous building to roughly two months, Mr. Nash added.

Crucially the new law establishes an “emergency procedure” where the Town Council can have the highway department remove the building.

If the demolition costs less than $20,000 the process would not have to go to competitive bidding.

Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong, speaking about the emergency procedure, said, “You can’t just arbitrarily do this.”

Before demolishing a building the code enforcement officer would have to inspect the building followed by a state inspection.

Code Enforcement Officer Christopher J. Sherwin said the law will establish a three-strike policy where the town will attempt to contact the property owner three times before demolishing the building.

The owner could intervene by repairing, boarding up or tearing down the building before the town gets to it, Mr. Sherwin said.

The new law will also give the town the ability to add the fee of the demolition to the tax roll of the offending property owner.

“The old law didn’t give us that bite,” Mr. Sherwin said.

The town council voted unanimously in favor of the law which will now be reviewed by the state. Mr. Armstrong said it’s likely to be at least three weeks before the law goes into effect.

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