Sunday July 1, 2012

EGREMONT -- After standing as a landmark in South Egremont for more than two centuries, the Egremont Inn came down in a massive fire in December 2009.

Two and a half years later, many of the inn’s remnants can still be found on the property, fenced off and overgrown with weeds. And with the potential for litigation looming, the town and the property owners are hoping to get a deal in place in the coming weeks to clear most of the site, according to Board of Health director Juliette Haas.

The Egremont Board of Health recently issued an enforcement order against the property owners, Robert and Marie Johnson. The order called for the Johnsons to remove the standing buildings, fill the basement, and clear the property of debris and the fence by the end of May.

Haas was recently preparing to file a motion with Housing Court in Pittsfield when a representative for the Johnsons made a verbal commitment to go ahead with a demolition.

Haas said the town wants to avoid having to go to court but also wants the problems with the property addressed. She said she will "push this thing along as best I can."

The enforcement order cited the property as a nuisance to the neighborhood, and Haas said the site poses potential health hazards, including possibly being a home for unwanted animals.

"It’s a blighted property," Haas said. "The people who live in that area are suffering with that day in and day out."

Doug Winseck, property manager for the site, said he’s awaiting approval from the Department of Environmental Protection in order to apply for a demolition permit with the town.

"It should all be wrapped up in the coming week or so to move the process along and get it all cleaned up," Winseck said.

Winseck said it should take three or four days to clear the site, though the remaining building in the back won’t be part of this demolition.

Haas said she would likely file a motion in court for the failure to act on the town’s order if the Johnsons do not apply for a demolition permit by mid-July.

A section of the inn was taken down several weeks ago by the owners after the state Department of Environm ental Protection ordered the removal because of issues with asbestos.

Last summer there were preliminary talks of gifting the property to the town, and a committee was formed to look into the concept. But when that plan failed to come to fruition, the Board of Health began looking into orders to have the blighted property cleared.

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
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