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19 Properties To Be Seized By Claremont

City Prepares to Take Ownership Of Parcels That Owe Back Taxes

Claremont — The city is preparing to seize 19 properties for failure to pay taxes.

The final list of tax-deeded properties, pared from 33 properties last month, was presented to the City Council Wednesday night.

Under state law, a municipality’s tax collector “shall” tax deed the properties when taxes owed are three years in backed taxes, Finance Director Mary Walter told the council. The council is only required to vote if it decides not to seize a property, which it did for nine others, including seven mobile homes that are in mobile home parks.

“We feel these are liabilities,” Walter said, adding that if the city owns the mobile homes it will be required to pay all park fees.

A tax-deeded property is a parcel the city owns after seizing it due to delinquent taxes.

The list of tax-deeded properties includes 10 houses, two commercial buildings and seven vacant lots. Of that total, eight houses, two lots and one commercial building owe taxes that go back past 2009.

“I’m hoping they can find the money to get caught up,” Walter said yesterday.

In her 12 years in Claremont, Walter said this is the first time she has had to proceed with tax deeding. Previously, owners have been able to make payments to avoid losing their property.

Walter said some owners no longer want the property.

“They have told us, they don’t want it. You take it,” Walter said, estimating that 70 percent of the properties the owners either don’t want or have abandoned.

A Centennial Street home falls into that category. Walter said the homeowner died with less than $2,000 due on the mortgage but the heirs did not want the home and no longer live in the area.

Mayor Jim Neilsen said if some properties are not seized and allowed to continue to deteriorate, when the city does take ownership it will have to tear them down like it did for a few hundred structures in the late 1990s.

“I can see us needing a bond to destroy properties,” the mayor said.

The former Hometown Deli on Main Street is another parcel that the owner no longer wants, Walter said, noting that there are two vacant parcels on either side that are being tax deeded also.

Councilors were not eager to move forward but agreed it was necessary.

“We don’t want to do this. It is hard,” said Councilor Chris Irish. “There is a human face to it.”

But Irish, who said he has been the recipient of a tax deed letter in the past, also said someone has to be held responsible.

“This is not the city’s fault.”

“We are going to be paying more if we don’t do it,” added councilor Keith Raymond.

Walter said yesterday the next step is to do another title search on the properties. Once that is completed and there is nothing to stop the city from taking the property, such as bankruptcy, then the tax collector will record the property as city-owned at the county registry of deeds.

“They probably have about three weeks to get caught up to 2009,” Walter said.

Once the city owns the property, the previous owner must pay 100 percent of the back taxes along with interest and penalties to get the property back, Walter said.

After the city takes ownership, it can advertise the properties for sale or become a landlord if the owner still lives there, she said.

“I don’t think we will put anything up for sale right away.”

In a related decision, the council approved an administration recommendation to sell seven vacant city-owned lots off a list of more than 60 parcels.

Walter said the first step would be to notify abutters that the properties, most of which are in residential areas, are for sale.

“We will take offers from interested parties and bring them to you,” Walter told the council. “I feel there will be interest from abutters.”

Two of the lots, both less than an acre, are on Plains Road not far from the wastewater treatment plant and there is an 11 acre parcel on eastern side of Charlestown Road starting at Piper Hill Road and going north. The other four parcels are on Tremont Street at the corner with Spofford Street; Derry Avenue, between Winter Street and Tutherly Avenue; 30 Hanover St.; and North Street, across from the substation.

The remaining parcels are being retained by the city, as recommended by the City Center Steering Committee and the Conservation Commission. In the city center, the property could have value for Parks and Recreation, Planning and Development or Public Works. Outside the city center, the Conservation Commission recommended holding on to 28 parcels that range in size from 125 acres on Cat Hole Road and 134 acres next to Moody Park to a quarter acre on Providence Avenue. The potential use was listed as “future conservation/mitigation.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.