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Originally published in The Weekly Packet, October 10, 2013
Owners of record sought for tax delinquent properties in Brooklin

by Rich Hewitt

The town’s board of selectmen is set to begin a process to identify the owners of several properties in town on which the taxes have not been paid for a number of years.

According to Chairman Albie Smith, the board met recently with the town’s attorney to review the lengthy process they will have to undertake before the town can foreclose on the properties and put them up for public auction.

There are at least six properties involved, Smith said, some of which have been tax delinquent for many years.

The process could take as long as two years, according to Selectmsn Deborah Brewster, who said the town attorney had identified two major steps the town will have to take.

“We have to make a good faith effort to identify the lost land owners,” she said October 1 at the regular board meeting. “If that fails, we have to go through the lien process before the town can sell them.”

Those properties have gone through the lien process once already, Brewster said, but the town had never taken the next step of foreclosing on them. Before the town can sell those properties, it will have to once again place a lien on them and then take the properties through foreclosure.

“That’s almost a two-year process,” Brewster said. “The lien alone takes 18 months.”

Before they get to the lien process, the selectmen will need to search for the last owner of record on each of the properties. The “good faith” effort will involve researching old tax cards going back as much as 20 years and talking with adjacent property owners.

Smith said it may not be necessary for the town to work on all of the properties at once and that the board may decide to start with a few at a time.

In a different property matter, the board set November 19 as the date for a special town meeting to see if the town will accept the gift of two separate properties. Smith said that two property owners have offered to give the town parcels of land. One is a 40-acre parcel on Harriman Point Road and the other is a four-acre lot near the elementary school.

Smith said the board may include at least one additional item on the warrant for the special town meeting, but did not elaborate.

Brewster and Smith also discussed the town office holiday schedule and will likely close the office on Thanksgiving, a Thursday, and Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, which fall on a Tuesday this year. Briefly, they also discussed whether the board should meet at some other time during the Christmas holidays, but made no decision.

The board approved a veteran’s exclusion tax abatement of $37.22 and signed the municipal valuation return. Work on the valuation return was completed this week by RJD Appraisal, the town’s assessing agent who will be in town on February 6 to offer a workshop on assessing for town office personnel. They also will be available to answer questions from taxpayers.