Dan Martel didn’t get the answer he wanted when he returned to Peabody’s city council meeting Monday after registering a property complaint at a prior meeting.
The city can’t do anything about piles of scrap metal and other items in a vacated alley behind 703 N. Chestnut St., Mayor Larry Larsen said, because it doesn’t have the necessary authority.
“When I was here in court one night, I heard the judge say when we brought a piece of property forward that the ordinance didn’t have any meat in it; therefore, the officers couldn’t enforce it,” Larsen said.
Police chief Bruce Burke agreed.
“We really don’t have anything in place to do anything about that,” he said. “I’ve been over and visited that property before, and yes, he has a lot of stuff there, but it’s all segregated by kind. It’s a judgment call as to whether it’s a health and safety violation or an eyesore.”
Martel wasn’t satisfied with their answers.
“This dump has been there over five years, and there’s been many a complaint, and it’s been completely ignored by city hall,” he said. “Nobody has pursued it. This is not been something that’s sprung up overnight.”
Martel questioned the logic of issuing a health and safety violation for a fire-damaged house at 803 N. Chestnut St., “when this is three to four times the damage and mess that that place was.”
Larsen and Burke responded that the fire created clear health and safety concerns.
Martel contended the condition of the property has negatively affected others. He used Ruth Sheridan, who owns a house at 610 N. Chestnut St., as an example.
“We’ve got a person up there, Mrs. Sheridan, put her house for sale and couldn’t get anybody to come look at her house because when they went by that dump they said they didn’t want to buy property next to a dump,” he said. “Now we’ve got a person that’s a hostage to her own property, she can’t do anything.”
Larsen said he had heard back from two of three cities he had contacted to get copies of ordinances that could be used to draft a new ordinance, which he hoped would be ready for consideration at the next council meeting.
“That property in my mind is cleaner than some other properties, but they all need to be dealt with,” Larsen said. “I think all of us sitting in this room could come up with probably five or six places. We have to have an ordinance that specifically addresses what is a violation of health and safety or eye soreness or clutteredness or whatever.”
Martel was clearly frustrated that the process of putting an ordinance in place could take more than a month.
“If you had brought it up to the judge before and they told you it didn’t have any meat, why didn’t you expedite the thing and put meat into it before we come up to this point?” he said.
Larsen said the city had been working to rectify numerous ordinance issues at the same time but was expediting this one because of Martel’s complaint.
“The reason that that’s happening is because of you, sir,” he said. “Youre’ the one that came in and said we’ve got a problem, so Bruce and I have been working on a resolution to get that taken care of, and I hope the end is close at hand.”
Martel’s reply was brief.
“I’ll be waiting for you,” he said.
Larsen presented a preliminary estimate of $200 to fix security issues at the city building identified in a discussion with Burke. He also suggested a check-out system for keys. No action was taken, but additional assessment of building security needs will be conducted.