Is Rutland responsible for demolishing blighted building?

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:21 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A blighted property in Rutland is drawing some unwanted attention and raising questions about whether taxpayers should foot the bill to have it demolished.

James Colvin has lived in Rutland for more than 20 years. He usually spends his time riding around on his scooter and lately has noticed more activity at the old Lynda Lee Dress Factory near his house

“We just had one OD’d not too long ago. The homeless people here in this town use this as a shelter,” Colvin said.

The former factory on Cleveland Avenue had been empty for years until squatters started to use it. Rutland Mayor Mike Doenges says the building’s exterior is unsafe and they are struggling to find a solution. “Historically, every once in a while we would find teenagers in there. They would be troublesome, but now it’s gotten to the point where the unhoused households, that a lot of them have found refuge in this particular building. That’s become slightly problematic,” he said.

The city and property owner John Ruggiero have been in discussions about what to do next. The bottom floor is now boarded up and the city is waiting on results from asbestos testing.

Ruggiero says it would likely take millions to fix up the building and acknowledges he could have done more, earlier. “I erred on the side of probably not being as vigilant as I may have been. It was because I did see their plight, you know. Many of these people are mentally ill or have drug problems,” he said.

Ruggiero says he’s hoping that the city or an organization can take over the space and turn it into something. Right now, the city says there’s a big possibility that if they take over the building, it will be demolished.