Elora Schumacher, 8, was one of many in the room full of local children treated to a Christmas Party and gifts at the Derry Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Saturday afternoon. Santa, Frosty and Rudolph all stopped in to bring joy to their guests for the holiday. Photo by Chris Paul
The Derry Town Council has approved a revision to its Building Code that will make it easier for the town to be proactive about unkempt buildings and unsightly lots, commonly known as “blight.”
The Council reviewed the revisions to Chapter 30 of the Building Code at its Dec. 16 meeting and unanimously approved them.
Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer Bob Mackey presented the revisions to the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), which was adopted by the town in 2005 and last revised in 2009.
An ordinance revision committee has been meeting, with Town Councilor Tom Cardon as chair, Mackey said.
Mackey wrote in a memo that “The RSAs of the state of New Hampshire grant power to municipalities that support our authority to control most of these issues. The Town has in place the powers under certain statutes to order a building to be repaired and under certain conditions, demolished.”
Mackey said that his office has been using the regulations all along in landlord-tenant disputes and complaints about trash. With the amendments, he said, his office and the town can “educate property owners, more effectively enforce the ordinance and maintain a safer community.”
Mackey said the revisions deal mostly with Chapter 3 of the Building Code, which addresses the outside of properties.
Central to the increased enforcement is a proposed Property Maintenance Committee, which will be charged with listing “distressed properties,” setting priorities and goals, dealing with property owners to resolve issues, and, if necessary, recommending the levying of fines according to the IPMC, which can be up to $275 per day of non-compliance.
Council member Joshua Bourdon liked the idea, noting that, “Many residents and business owners want to see progress in this area.” He asked Mackey, “What have we accomplished since we adopted the code in 2005?”
Mackey said the code has been successfully employed in the landlord-tenant disputes. He recently used it in getting a downtown property owner to deal with smashed windows in an empty building, he said. “But it’s never been used in a proactive sense,” he added.
Councilor Al Dimmock reminded the Council and audience that the committee will be advisory in nature, in line with the Highway Safety Committee. He volunteered to be on the committee.
But Dimmock warned that Mackey is dealing with, in essence, absentee landlords. “You can impose all the fines you want,” he said. “But what happens if they don’t pay?” The cost of razing the building and reselling the land could be a financial burden on the town, he said.
Member Phyllis Katsakiores also expressed concern about absentee landlords. Mackey said the revisions in the ordinance will allow him to “keep the pressure on.”
Mackey added that some of the most extreme cases would fall to the Council to decide, “and they would have to make some tough decisions.”
In the public hearing resident Marc Flattes called attention to two different paragraphs, one about “abandoned” property and one about “vacant” property. Flattes objected to the “vacant” designation, saying that many homes for sale stay vacant for 60 days or more. Flattes, who is looking to buy a house, asked, “How would that attract me as someone who wants to buy something? This doesn’t exclude residences.”
Mackey said the ordinance refers primarily to buildings that have been abandoned. “If it’s being actively marketed, this does not apply,” he said.
The intention, Mackey said, is “not to go in and board up buildings that are viable.”
“It’s just another tool for Code Enforcement,” Cardon said. “We’re not going to board up every building that’s been vacant for 60 days.”
The buildings to be boarded would be those carrying a risk of criminal activity or public safety concerns, Mackey said.
Council Chair Mark Osborne asked, “In enforcing these changes, does it come with a reasonable amount of discretion?” Mackey said it did.
Steve Trefethen, a community member and Realtor, said in his opinion, the ordinance doesn’t need the term “vacant.” He recommended the paragraph on “securing vacant property” be eliminated.
But Councilor Michael Fairbanks disagreed, saying, “Abandoned and vacant mean two different things. I can see why it’s in there.”
Planning Director George Sioras recommended passage of the revisions, saying, “We’ve been talking about this on the Downtown Committee for a couple of years. It’s a great tool.”
Osborne reminded the Council that the committee to revise the ordinance was put together almost a year before in response to community concerns.
“No proposed law is perfect,” he said. “If we waited on every law, we’d never have a single law on the books.”
The Council voted 7-0 to approve the revisions.
After playing its first two official games of the 2014-15 Division I season last week, the Pinkerton Academy ice hockey team found itself still hunting for its first victory.
Varsity coach Joey Lee’s icemen had to settle for a deadlock in Salem in their first contest of the campaign, and in their second they wound up on the down side of a lopsided decision against the Bedford High Bulldogs on the road.
The Astros had to be satisfied with a 2-2 tie with the tough Salem High Blue Devils in their season-opener at the Salem Icenter Wednesday, Dec. 17.
The Astros had plenty of reasons to be pleased that they only trailed by a 1-0 count after one period had been completed, because it could have easily been 3-0 or 4-0, were it not for fine work in net by goalie Brendan Murphy.
Pinkerton’s play was lackluster in the first period, and the host Blue Devils dominated the action. But keeper Murphy – a transfer from Minnesota prior to the 2013-14 season – made nine stops to keep his side in the fray.
Each team enjoyed two power-plays in the second period, but the score didn’t change from 1-0 despite high-speed action from both sides.
The academy side finally got its first goal of the campaign 54 seconds into the third period when Tyler Poole ended a great flurry of pressure on the Salem net by rifling a shot home. Steve Leonard and Gio Corsetto had the assists.
With 11:06 to go in regulation time, Pinkerton was assessed a five-minute major penalty for a hit from behind, and their host was given a chance to snag the lead again. But the Astros fought off that long power-play and snagged a lead of their own with 5:41 to go when forward Ryan Monte scored with assists from Ethan Landry and Tim Cronin.
Salem knotted the score back up at 2-2 on a man-up goal with just 1:17 showing on the game clock, and that score didn’t change through the remainder of regulation time or the overtime stanza.
Goalie Murphy registered 26 saves in the hard-fought tie, and Lee was left happy with about two-thirds of his team’s regulation-time performance.
“I liked our performance in 30 of the 45 minutes. We played well in the second and third periods, but the first period wasn’t representative of what we can do,” said Lee.
And his team’s ability to battle its way out of man-down situations – with keeper Murphy taking the lead – throughout the game pleased the coach as well.
“Our best PK guy was number 35 (Murphy), and you like to be able to say that,” said Lee.
But very little went well for the Astros in their 5-1 loss to Bedford at Saint Anselm College last Saturday, Dec. 20.
The host Bulldogs led 2-0 after one period and 5-1 after two periods had been completed.
Gio Corsetto killed Bedford’s shutout hopes with 6:03 left in the middle stanza after having been set up by Leonard to make it a 4-1 contest at that juncture.
Pinkerton goalie Murphy turned aside 22 Bedford shots in the decisive defeat.
But game number three was the charm for the academy icemen, who bagged their first victory of the young season in a 4-0 blanking of the visiting Saint Thomas Aquinas Saints at the Ice Den in Hooksett this past Monday night.