Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

February 2, 2012

Town 'keeping an eye' on land

By Dustin Luca
STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of filled trash bags, some in piles six feet tall, lay on the front lawn of an Osgood Street property. Neighbors would like to see the town take action, but the health director says the piles do not represent a health hazard.

The property is owned by Susan Odle, currently a Manchester, N.H. resident with property in Andover, Methuen and Westford, Mass. In addition to 116 Osgood St., Odle owns an Andover condominium at 38 Michael Way that was recently condemned by the town, according to Tom Carbone, Andover's health director.

Odle couldn't be located or reached for comment and the Townsman could not find a listed phone number for her. A letter left at the Osgood Street property requesting comment generated no response.

Residents who live near the Osgood Street property, say their home values are being harmed by the escalating problem and believe it is time for the town to do something.

"We've lived here for nine years and said nothing," said Maureen Brogan, who lives down the road at 85 Osgood St. During that time, trash collected inside the house, more than a dozen sheds and a barn-like structure on the property. Today, items are stacked in the house high enough that they're visible in the windows from the street. A shed with an open door on the property has items falling out of it.

The piles in the front yard were the final straw, said Brogan.

"I was going home via Bellevue Road, and I saw the bags. And I saw [my husband Bill] and said, 'This is enough,'" said Maureen Brogan. "Her house is her house, and that is her business. But now it is becoming our business."

It is believed that nobody is living in the Osgood Street home currently, according to Carbone.

The situation there is not the first incident of Andoverites speaking out against a so-called blight property in their neighborhood. In the last half decade, Kirkland Drive residents upset with the condition of a home on their street have twice gone to Town Meeting seeking to add controls that would force residents to kee their property up to some kind of standard. Another property on Elm Street owned by a self-described hoarder also received attention in 2008 after its condition made responding to a fire inside the home difficult.

Bags are from condo

Following the condemnation of Odle's Michael Way condo, the trash being discarded by cleaners was collected by Odle, according to Carbone. Using U-Haul moving vans, Odle brought the bags to her Osgood Street property, where they are now, he said.

At first, Apple Blossom Road resident Tara Summers thought the bags piling up on the property was an indication that Odle was cleaning out her home.

But the situation was the complete opposite, according to Summers.

"What she did is she took all of the trash bags, all the trash from there and dropped it on the front lawn of Osgood Street," said Summers. "The whole lot is full of trash bags."

Bill Brogan, who also lives at Osgood Street, said he was surprised when they learned where the bags were coming from.

"No one was aware that that was trash from another property," said Bill Brogan. "We would just wake up, and there would be massive piles."

It isn't exactly known what is in the bags. Carbone believes it is just items from the Michael Way condo in general.

Town: Property not yet a health hazard

Regardless of what is in the bags, it isn't technically a health hazard to the town until there is evidence that vermin or wild animals are living off them, according to Carbone.

"If we were to see that those bags were being broken into by animals, that would tell us that there is something more than paper in there," said Carbone. "If we see an increase in rodent activity, that may be something we can then take. We've been talking to town council and keeping an eye on what's going on to figure out what our options are."

Part of what is complicating the matter for Andover officials is a recent filing for bankruptcy protection by Odle, according to Carbone.

"It has kind of tied our hands. As soon as somebody files for bankruptcy protection, it kicks in a lot of legal stuff," said Carbone. "It basically freezes all legal action concerning a property or assets."

For the time being, the weather is cold. As the months pass and spring becomes summer, Summers and the Brogans are concerned about what will happen when the piles of bags sit in the sun day after day.

"It would be nice if action can be made with the trash bags before we see evidence with animals," said Maureen Brogan. "The trash bags should be taken off the property."

For feedback on this story, please email dluca@andovertownsman.com.