Town to get tough with vacant buildings?

Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - Amherst may soon have another weapon to use with vacant, derelict properties throughout the community.

Town council has passed first reading of a new vacant buildings bylaw and could be in a position to enact it as its November council session.

"What the bylaw will do is allow council to set a time limit on how long a building can be boarded up," town planner Jason MacDonald said. "If it exceeds that period and the owner refuses to remove the window covering then council may begin an expropriation process."

As part of the town's beautification strategy, council asked staff to look into enacting a vacant buildings bylaw to deal not only with a number of boarded up buildings in the downtown, but to give it power to act with buildings in any part of the town.

The vacant building bylaw gives the town another tool it can use when dealing with these buildings. MacDonald cautioned that while the town will have the power to act, the town is not about to get in the real estate market.

"In most cases the town probably won't (purchase vacant buildings). It's another option to go after the unsightly premises issue," he said.

Under the present bylaws the town only has the power to order property owners to fix up their derelict buildings and properties. There is no option for the town to take them over if it feels the need arises.

The decision to acquire a building always rests with council.

"Acquiring a building is always a last resort. The town would prefer to work with a building owner to fix it up," MacDonald said. "Sometimes though they will fix up a building and three years later we're back at them again because it has been allowed to deteriorate again."

Under the proposed bylaw, no building can be boarded up for more than six consecutive months. The town can apply to the Supreme Court for an injunction ordering the building owner to fix the property, or it may exercise its rights under the bylaw to acquire the property.

MacDonald stressed that just because the town is considering the bylaw doesn't mean there's a big concern with vacant buildings. He said there aren't many empty buildings in the community and it has not been a big issue. Still, the bylaw gives the town some more power to act in problem areas.

Organizations: Town council, Supreme Court

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Recent comments

  • G
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Ever pass through Amherst via Via Rail??? the people across in the next seat said what a dump....
    Is the old rolling mill building still standing??

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Might just be cheaper, easier, and quicker for the town to remove the boards and fix the windows, slap on some paint over the graffiti, etc. Provide a grant to help the people fix up their places. And put to work those welfare collectors / people doing community service / inmates and give them some mentoring and teach them a skill in the process.
    No wait - that would benefit people and, well, it is Amherst....
    And with that call centre hiring and all the fast food places and retail stores the welfare office should be out of business anyway!

  • DJ
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    I agree Steve. Its easy to sit back and criticize the Town's attempt to deal with a very real problem. Its another for people to provide constructive criticism or god forbid - a better idea..... I don't profess to know the answer to this question but I would love to see people provide their suggestions on how the deal with the many vacant and delapitated buildings in this area.

  • Joe
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    how do you define boarded up window?

    My advice: Simply remove the windows, block the hole and the Town can do nothing. Is the town hoping to force people to sell properties they own?

    The town doesn't need this by-law to expropriate properties. There is a whole expropriation process already in place. Also I really doubt a blocked up window would give the Goverment the right to take your property and own it.

    Goodluck Amherst in meaningless exercises in meaningless legislation.

  • Joe
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45


    Creating a by-law that looks good on paper but is completly unenforceable is brainstorming at its worst.

    The Town really needs to think a little harder about how to deal with empty buildings instead of empty legislation.

  • steve
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    So what your all sayin' is...change nothing and continue to let the town look dilapidated. Good call people....brainstorming at its best!

  • money man
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    So what your saying un board the windows let the kids break the windows out once a week or expropriation process begin. Hmm or i board all the windows put vinal siding on the building . OR sue the town and tie it up in court for many years and the tax payers cannot afford that i think i will run for mayor next term

  • welder
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Just like the cartoon, the elected officals of this town really LIKE the smell of their own internal exaust gasses.
    Like any court is going to allow exprop. because you boarded up a window. How about the proposed by law about council deciding what is unsightly. What, you now gonna exprop. from those poor people who cannot keep up with the Jonses ? Good luck fools. And by the way guess who pays the legal bills for this crap ?

  • Bob
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Wow - that'll fix the mural building downtown... maybe the old legion. What about the homes on East Victoria and Spring street that are falling in because of neglect but have no boards on the windows? The one on Spring Street has a yard full of cars sinking into the ground.

  • Troy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Hey if Walter wells owns property all over town and he doesnt want to paint them and wants to store cars on them to sink in the ground,,,thats his business,nobody elses,,I mean they are not drug houses or meth labs,,I'm sure if the town asked him nicley to paint the old riddles he probably would do it,,he is actually a very nice man if you took the time to talk to him and get to know him,,,Just a little people skills and a chat over coffee and I would think you may be surprised at what could get done.