Middlesex County News

City Picks Committee, Law Firm to Move on Abandoned Houses

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Vacant house at 289 Seaman St., where two squatters died in a fire last May. The city wants to take action on abandoned houses. Credits: Tom Haydon
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NEW BRUNSWICK,NJ - Abandoned properties in urban areas cause a range of problems, from fostering criminal activity to creating public health hazard and generally diminishing the quality of life.

That is from the opening statement of an ordinance that the city council passed in 2016 calling for establishment of a list abandoned properties and how New Brunswick can renovate or remove them.

Last week, two years after the ordinance passed, the city council established a committee of  three municipal officials to commence action of abandoned houses.

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Council members also hired the law firm of McManimon, Scotland & Baumann of Newark to provide legal services for the committee under a contract allocating up to $25,000.

At the council meeting, City Attorney T.J. Shame said time has been spent identifying abandoned properties.

“We have finally gotten to the point where we can name the properties,” Shamy said. “It has been a multi-faceted, multi-phase process,” he said.

The city should have a list of the identified properties within 30 days, Shamy said. He did not say how many homes were on the list.

Under the 2016 ordinance, the city would publish the list of properties considered abandoned as a result of unpaid taxes and failure to make repairs and maintenance, or other criteria stated in the municipal law.

New Brunswick would seek legal action to take control or possession of a property in need of rehabilitation.

Any property owner can oppose an effort to take a home and submit a plan for renovating the house.
If, however, a court orders the city take control or possession of a building, New Brunswick would have to submit a plan for rehabbing the structure to reusing the property, under the municipal law.

The city would seek to recoup its cost through disposal or sale property.

Under the ordinance, a property could be declared a nuisance if it is unfit for human habitation, if it is vacant and poses a risk of fire, if it is not secured and subject to unauthorized entry, or if it is dilapidated, overrun with vermin or unkept vegetation.

The people assigned to the committee are Elaine Broyles, city coordinator for abandoned property, Assistant City Attorney Charly Gayden, and city Construction Official William Schrum.

 

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