Athol Selectboard votes to demolish Summer Street garage

Neighbors' complaints about odors and trash piling up at a garage at 62-64 Summer St., as well as concerns over the condition of the structure, have led the Selectboard to order demolition to proceed next Monday. 

Neighbors' complaints about odors and trash piling up at a garage at 62-64 Summer St., as well as concerns over the condition of the structure, have led the Selectboard to order demolition to proceed next Monday.  FILE PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Summer Street resident Crystal Cowin lobbies the Selectboard to raze a garage at 62-64 Summer St.

Summer Street resident Crystal Cowin lobbies the Selectboard to raze a garage at 62-64 Summer St. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

At Monday's Selectboard meeting, Building Inspector Bob Legare said that the garage at 62-64 Summer St. is a threat to public safety and should be torn down.

At Monday's Selectboard meeting, Building Inspector Bob Legare said that the garage at 62-64 Summer St. is a threat to public safety and should be torn down. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 06-13-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL – Following testimony from neighbors about strong odors and safety hazards, the Selectboard has voted to demolish a dilapidated garage at 62-64 Summer St. beginning next Monday.

Several neighbors attended a meeting held on Monday to speak about risks posed by the condition of the garage as well as alleged ongoing drug activity in and around the house on the property.

Before the start of the hearing, Town Counsel John Barrett confirmed that the owners of the property had been notified of the board’s intention to discuss demolition of the garage. The property is owned by HB2 Alternate Holdings LLC of New York City. No one representing the company was at the meeting.

Once board Chair Stephen Raymond opened the public hearing, Melissa Cloukey-Perez, who owns one of the properties adjacent to 62-64 Summer St., was the first to testify in favor of demolition.

“The roof has completely collapsed from the snow and the rain,” she said, “and it’s come down even more since the rain last week. The wall is bowing out next to the rear entryway of my building; my upstairs tenants use that as an entry and exit, and there are four children that live up there. If the garage collapses, it will collapse into that walkway in the back of my building. I’m concerned about the safety of my tenants.”

Rachael Rhodes, who lives with her family on the second floor of the building owned by Cloukey-Perez, said she no longer likes to use her kitchen because the odor from the garage is so pungent.

“I can’t open up windows to enjoy the sunshine. I keep finding drug paraphernalia in my front yard,” Rhodes said. “My 15-month-old daughter can’t play in her front yard, and my other kids can barely go out the back door because we’re concerned about the garage. We’re just here pleading with you to do something.”

Building Inspector Bob Legare told the board that, in addition to the roof, “A section of the floor has collapsed. There are trees that are holding it up from falling onto the neighboring property. I don’t think any reasonable person can say this isn’t a danger. It needs to come down. The only thing that keeps it from falling down even more is all the household garbage that’s holding it up.”

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A neighbor of the property, Crystal Cowin, testified, “I’ve had rats in my yard. I’ve had dead rats in my backyard. The trash smells really bad.”

Told that the hearing was to deal specifically with the garage, Jason Allaire persisted, telling the board, “It’s not the owners that really live in that house – it’s drug addicts and squatters. So this is a lot bigger issue than just the garage.”

Barrett said if the board decides to issue an order, the owner has a day or two to start work on addressing the problem, or appeal to Superior Court.

As for anyone in the house, Barrett said, “We can’t evict the people. That really is up to the owner to do that.”

“At our last meeting, there was a pretty clear understanding that, legally, this is step one of what we’re able to do,” said board member Rebecca Bialecki. “We want to address this issue, including finding the right way to get those people out of the building. They should not be there.”

Bialecki made a motion that, “The Athol Selectboard finds that, after hearing and receiving testimony and other evidence, the garage structure and environs at 62 Summer St. is a dangerous building and nuisance to the neighborhood and order that it be demolished and the garbage and refuse around the building removed…”

The motion, unanimously approved by the board, called for the town to undertake demolition of the garage after the owner failed to respond by noon on Wednesday, according to Legare. No action was taken by the owner by the deadline and according to Legare, plans call for demolition to proceed at 8 a.m. next Monday, June 17.

A lien will be placed on the property to cover the town’s costs related to razing the building, which will be done by a private contractor.

At the suggestion of Legare, the board is also looking at the possibility of seeking an administrative search warrant for the house.

“I would recommend bringing police, building (department), Board of Health, wire inspector, plumbing inspector to assess the property and then move forward on the house after that inspection,” he told the board at its June 4 meeting.

If officials find code violations and deem the house unsafe, they could then move to have it demolished at a later date.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@aol.com.