Owners of buildings left vacant for more than 60 days must register them with contact information.

AUGUSTA — City councilors Thursday unanimously approved an ordinance requiring the owners of buildings left vacant for more than 60 days to register their properties with the city and provide contact information in the event the property becomes a hazard to the public.

The ordinance was created in response to residents’ concerns about vacant homes and other buildings, most of them foreclosed on, that have been left unmaintained and unsecured in their neighborhoods.

While the ordinance won’t prevent this from happening, councilors said, it at least provides a way to reach someone responsible for the properties if they become hazardous.

“It is unfortunate we have to do this in our community, but some of these properties are not really being good neighbors,” Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant said. “This is a small step but an important step in trying to address these issues.”

“I haven’t had anybody say to me this is a bad thing,” at-large Councilor Cecil Munson said. “All appreciate the fact we’re concerned about their property values and that this will help move some of those really derelict situations into the light so they can be dealt with.”

The ordinance was written after residents expressed concern that unmaintained, unlocked buildings could attract thieves, vandals or squatters and harm the value and appearance of other nearby homes.

The ordinance as originally proposed would have required owners of buildings vacant for 60 days or more to register with the city and pay a fee – $200 for commercial properties such as banks or $100 for owners of private homes – every six months and provide contact information.

However, the ordinance was modified to apply only to buildings that are both vacant and abandoned after some building owners, residents and city councilors expressed concern that the original version would have imposed fees on people who don’t deserve it, such as homeowners who might need to leave their homes because they can’t find tenants or plan to renovate them, or those who leave for warmer locations in winter.

Councilors directed city staff to have the ordinance apply only to vacant buildings that also are abandoned. The ordinance’s definition of abandoned is modeled on recently passed state legislation that includes any building that has been foreclosed on.

Bangor passed an ordinance requiring owners of buildings vacant for more than 60 days to register with the city in 2013. Augusta officials used that ordinance as a model.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj