YORK, Maine — The lawn has been mowed and the garbage removed at the burned-out, rat-infested home at 21 Darcy Road, and now the town is preparing to sell it for $400,000.
“We’ve done a lot of cleaning. We’re getting it on the market,” said Town Manager Steve Burns, who along with Selectboard members heard complaints this spring about the house that burned in a February fire.
The board voted Monday night 5-0 to put the house on the market using Realtor Lianne Cronin, who gave the board a $400,000 price estimate based on prior sales of lots that involve a teardown.
The home was seized by the town in 2020 due to lack of payment on taxes, according to town records. The last homeowner before the foreclosure lived in the home until the fire and has since found new housing, her former neighbors on Darcy Road have said. The board agreed to clean and sell the home in May after residents complained that the house was an eyesore and a hazard with a buildup of garbage and an infestation of rats.
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The board had voted in May for Code Enforcement to oversee the cleanup of the property, and Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison said at the time that cleanup would include pest control. Monday, the board’s vote included a stipulation that the buyer clean the property and address “vermin.” Burns said Tuesday he was unsure of the progress on pest control since clean-up of the house began, and Harrison did not return a call seeking comment.
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Darcy Road resident Madolyn Buckless said she believed the inclusion of a vermin solution in Monday’s vote indicated the pest control work was not completed, but she said the town has still shown progress by filling four dumpsters of garbage in June. She said the previous owner, Mary Gibson, was allowed to remove her belongings from the property and is believed to be living in Kittery now.
“We should be doing better. I am guessing we are several months away from a full clean-up,” said Buckless in an email, “But it is better.”
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A deal for the right buyer
The home’s projected value was based in part on two properties that sold recently that involved a teardown – 298 York Street where condos were recently built and a home at 565 York Street. The home at 21 Darcy Road, built in 1980, is located in a highly sought subdivision, according to Cronin, only a short walk from York Harbor. She said the neighborhood has recently seen one home selling for as much $1.1 million, others north of $900,000.
“The homes in the neighborhood, they’re executive homes,” Cronin said. “It’s a really nice neighborhood, and it will support the value.”
Meanwhile, the board is working to get some of the money from the sale to Gibson.
The board initially thought Gibson would receive proceeds from the sale due to Maine’s Homestead Exemption Program. The program requires proceeds from the sale of a town-seized property to go to qualifying homeowners who are 65 or older.
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Luke Vigue, the town’s new tax assessor, said Gibson would have qualified for the Homestead exemption but never applied.
“For some reason, she had not applied,” Vigue said. “It’s really too bad.”
Selectboard members said they still wanted to give proceeds from the sale to Gibson, though a question remained of exactly how much. Vigue said the only option the town had was to create an ordinance that allows the town to give the funds to the homeowner after a foreclosure and sale.
Board members said they wanted to amend the ordinance as soon as possible, the next town referendum coming up in November.
Burns said the board could technically get an ordinance amendment on the ballot for the November referendum, but he advised waiting until the referendum in May 2023.
He said the board needs to determine exactly how much of the proceeds should go back to the homeowner, preferably by holding two public hearings for the town to hear feedback and make changes. Right now, he said there would only be time for one public hearing before the September deadline, which he said was doable but rushed and would leave little time for deliberation.
“Not good practice for generating an ordinance,” Burns said. “It’s not good for this person, but right now they’re entitled to zero. The board is working to get some of that money back to them.”