CAMDEN – The former Apollo Tanning Co. plant on Washington Street was designated a “dangerous building” by the Select Board on Monday night.
After a hearing that lasted nearly two hours, the board voted 4-0 (Susan Dorr was absent) to designate the building dangerous. State law allows municipalities to make such designations, as long as they are based on facts. Once a building is designated dangerous, the town has leverage in demanding action from the property owner.
The board heard the concerns of neighbors who have pointed out that children have been able to get into the rambling, three-story structure; that raccoons are living in or under the building; and that if it were to catch on fire, it could threaten nearby homes.
At the meeting, board member John French asked attorney Andrew Hamilton, who represents the owner, Apollo Real Estate LLC, whether the building’s sprinkler system is still operational. French said he assumed that the water had been drained from the system, but wondered if the Fire Department could pump water through an accessible valve to suppress a fire.
French and others have said it would be dangerous for firefighters to enter the building if it were on fire, in part because the former industrial site may be saturated with toxins.
Hamilton said he did not know the status of the sprinkler system.
Town Manager Roger Moody said the board wants Apollo Real Estate to report on the status of the sprinkler system at the board’s July 16 meeting.
The board also wants the owners to have solved the raccoon problem and to have cleaned up the metal pipes, beams and vehicle parts that are lying around the plant’s property by the July 16 meeting.
Moody said that with the dangerous-building designation, the board has the power to demand that the structure be demolished. Hamilton told the board Monday night that it would cost $60,000 to $90,000 to demolish the plant.
He said the owners do not have the resources to pay for demolition.
The board also discussed briefly asking the owners to erect a fence around the property.
The board also wants to learn within six weeks whether a potential buyer,
Performance Resource Group of Santa Clarita, Calif., is going to move forward with a purchase of the property.
Rob Ferguson of PRG visited Camden late last week for three days and met with the town’s code enforcement officer and others about how the property might be redeveloped.
Contacted in California on Tuesday, he said his company will be able to meet the six-week deadline.
Ferguson said PRG does business and property development. He said he met Buck Lawson, president of Apollo Real Estate, through another business deal, and Lawson asked PRG to consider purchasing the Camden property.
Ferguson said he believes the property might be developed with a combination of retail stores, offices and condominiums.
“The river running behind it is of high interest to me,” he said.
“I thought it was a beautiful community,” he said of his visit to Camden.
It is too early, he said, to say whether PRG would sell, lease or own the redeveloped site.
If the company decides to buy the property, it would take another four to six months to secure financing, Hamilton said Monday.
PRG’s Web site is at www.prgwebsite.com.