What will be done with Camden Street property?
Rockland — The city will be seeking proposals for re-development of two properties -- including a prime commercial one on Camden Street -- that were acquired by Rockland last year.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, Feb. 14, to authorize the city manager to solicit development proposals for 59 Camden St. and a three-unit apartment building at 56 Talbot Ave.
The city foreclosed on both properties in April 2016, when the owners failed to pay delinquent sewer fees that were more than two years in arrears and despite repeated warnings sent to the owners.
The 59 Camden St. property had been the Harry French automobile repair shop for 35 years until he retired in 2007. The building and one-fifth acre, located at the intersection of Maverick Street, has been vacant for nearly a decade.
The property, valued by the city at $206,600, was owned by Rockland Plaza LLC and its principal, Mark Patel, of Biddeford.
The lot was the subject of an environmental cleanup in 2010 because of spillage from fuel tanks.
The foreclosure occurred when Rockland Plaza failed to pay $270 in sewer fees. There had been a lien on the property for those fees since October 2014 for sewer use from the end of 2013.
The 56 Talbot Ave. property is a three-unit apartment building.
The city foreclosed on the property in April, when a $222 sewer lien had gone unpaid since 2014, despite repeated notices to Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.
The property is assessed by the city at $265,600, which includes a quarter-acre and a three-unit apartment building that has total floor space of nearly 3,600 square feet. The home was built in 1858.
Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root said last month the property is in fairly good condition.
Deutsche Bank had been challenging the city's claim to the property, but City Manager Audra Caler Bell said Tuesday night that the bank now agrees that Rockland is the legal owner. The bank had been foreclosing on the property when the city foreclosed on the sewer lien.
City Councilor Valli Geiger said she had no interest in that property going back to Deutsche Bank.
"We need to send a message to banks," Geiger said.
Geiger said it was a tragedy to allow banks to sit on residential properties and let them deteriorate while there is a such a great need for housing.
The council gave unanimous final approval last September to changing the Rockland ordinance that regulates the way the municipality disposes of properties acquired through tax or sewer foreclosures. The change allows the council to consider whether the homes or land it acquires would best be used as affordable housing for people with low incomes, or for middle-class workers.
Geiger sponsored that change.
Previously, if the city did not return the properties to the former owners, which is done in the majority of cases, the city would sell them to the highest bidder.
The City Council has been looking at ways to generate more affordable housing and has worked with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is planning to build up to 12 small homes on Philbrick Avenue, contingent on changes to city zoning and the extension of the public sewer line.