Owner Charles Ransford asks for more time to repair the decaying two-story building.
ADAMS, Mass. — Town officials have ordered the demolition of 50 Commercial St. because of the danger of its possible collapse.
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco told the Selectmen on Wednesday that the Board of Survey determined that the property on the corner of Edmunds Street and Commercial is unsecure, unstable and any day could collapse onto the nearby sidewalk or road.
"This building is a public safety threat to the town mainly because it has the risk of falling into a public way," he said. "There have already been materials from the roof that have come down onto the sidewalk and I would ask the Selectmen to vote on an order to demolish the building."
Roy Anderson of Hill Engineering said the board did not go into the building because it was too dangerous and noted that parts of the roof have collapsed as well as wall sections. He said where the roof is still in place, there are holes and parts of the second story has collapsed.
Board of Survey member Paul Goyette feared snow could quicken the collapse.
"It is in such disrepair … and I think the only thing holding that wall up is the trees that have overgrown in that area," he said. "I feel that the town is moving in the right direction with this because someone is going to get hurt and I don't think it will make it through the winter."
Board member and Fire Chief John Pansecchi said people have broken into the building and if there was a fire it would be unsafe for firefighters to enter the building.
Owner Charles "Rusty" Ransford, who purchased the property at a bank auction some 20 years ago, said the building had been used by an auto body shop for some time but the tenant had troubles making payments.
He said the building has been vacant and admitted the building was in bad shape.
The structure built in 1921 was home to numerous automotive garages and tire service centers over the decades. In the early 1970s, two residential units next to it were razed to make more room for automobile sales.
Ransford said he owns many properties throughout Adams and North Adams and although he owes taxes, he has worked with the city on payment plans and will be squared away by 2018.
He added this was not the case in Adams and that the former tax collector refused to agree to a payment plan for the building.
Ransford said he attempted to repair the building and purchased $6,000 worth of material to make the fix but that was shot down by the town because he did not apply for a building permit. He noted that a small repair does not need a permit and felt there were ulterior motives to the shutdown.
"Because I owed taxes, they would not issue a building permit for me to fix the roof so now we have kind of have a Catch 22 situation," he said. "It is a sad day when you can legislate and regulate a man's property into ruin and here is a good example of it right here."
Mazzucco said the tax collector has the right to deny payment plans and Building Inspector Don Torrico said the roof repair likely was not a small project and would have needed a permit.
Ransford said he would still be willing to work out an agreement with the town and possibly make repairs but Mazzucco said that ship has sailed.
"That building needs to be demolished it is not safe," Mazzucco said. "It is not in a repairable condition and at what point do you spend all of this money to repair it when it is cheaper to tear it down."
Selectman Joseph Nowak agreed and felt if Ransford wanted to save the building he would have attempted to appeal the town's ruling or pay the taxes.
"If you weren't interested in paying taxes for five to six years on the property it would appear to me that you didn't think there was any value in the property to try to restore it," he said. "That building is an eyesore and it has been like that for many years and it is at the entrance of our community."
James Leitch, former town building inspector, town administrator and an Edmunds Street resident, agreed the building was an eyesore and has harmed the neighborhood.
"That building for decades has had a terrible effect on the neighborhood and if you want people to invest in their homes and business to move in you have to maintain these properties," he said. "If you want people to walk by that property and not feel like is OK to throw trash in the street the building has to come down."
Mazzucco said Ransford has 30 days to demolish the building on his own and if he fails to follow the order the town will swiftly move in and do it.
"We would expedite this as quick as we can and be prepared," he said. "Hopefully he will be a good citizen and comply with the order within 30 days, but we will be prepared to enforce the selectmen's order as soon as we can after that."
Mazzucco added that the town has $60,000 for slum and blight removal that should cover the demolition.
Selectwoman Christine Hoyt had concerns about what was in the building and said she saw tanks of some kind through the window.
Mazzucco said because the building is so unsafe there would be no remediation and it would simply be knocked down and hauled away as possible hazardous waste.
Because the building is not condemned. Ransford can still enter it, however, it would be at his own risk.
Selectman Richard Blanchard felt the danger was more immediate with so much foot traffic in the area and asked if it was possible to fence off the area.
Mazzucco said this would be difficult because it would hinder emergency vehicle access to Edmunds Street.
Town Counsel Edmund St. John III said if the building starts to fall down before the end of Ransford's 30-day window, he can solicit Housing Court for an injunction to tear down the building.
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