By Julia Purdy
RUTLAND— Chaplin Ave. is a short, quiet dead-end street that climbs a gentle hill above Route 7 across from the state fairgrounds. It’s a neighborhood of modest homes of various vintages, some with front porches and the the railroad tracks that are screened by a thick row of deciduous trees. It’s the mixed bag typical of the old Rutland, but also typical is that there is room to improve these city-owned properties to bring them closer to surrounding property values and renew their useful life.
14 Chaplin Ave. is one of three remaining homes for sale through Rutland City’s program to offer its city-owned residential properties for sale to purchasers who can prove their ability to remodel, renovate or replace them. The deadline to apply is July 27.
The program launched in November 2017 and 13 properties have been approved for purchase to date. In addition, five empty house lots are about to be offered this summer. All are served by city water and sewer, according to Tara Kelly, zoning administrator. Kelly explained that the houses have been offered in batches with different deadlines, to avoid creating a backlog.
The properties are typically acquired by the city through tax sale, but one was an owner transfer after a major house fire; the fire department took it over for training, and now it is available.
The Chaplin Avenue house is the oldest acquisition, dating to 2014, while 109 Forest St. is the most recent, in November 2017. The amount owed to the city for 14 Chaplin Ave. is $37,031; 109 Forest St., which has been purchased, was in arrears by $27,041. Some properties are former family homes where the owner-occupant died and relatives let things slide.
Chris Vota, owner of CV Terrill LLC, wandered through 14 Chaplin Ave. and liked what he saw. A Brandon resident, he has been in business two years and fixes up properties as rentals. With one project under his belt, he’s ready to start another. The house is “small enough, easier to work with than some of the larger properties, there’s smaller turnaround time,” he said.
He said he approves of the program because it “fixes up the neighborhood, gets old rundown properties looking better and back on the tax list.”
14 Chaplin Ave. has the potential to add old-fashioned grace to the streetscape. Its slate roof and shady porch with turned posts, spindle railings and jigsawed brackets hark back to the end of the 19th century.
Tara Kelly, who was at the open house to answer questions, said that seven of the properties from this year’s batch have been transferred to NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.
She described some of the projects. Work will start soon on a faded but ornate Queen Anne-style residence on Kingsley Avenue, which was purchased by a woman from Chicago who invests in properties on the East Coast with historic character and has restored houses in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Kelly said she has been out here several times, “fell in love” with the area and has gotten interested in investing in Rutland.
Another property, on the corner of Terrill and East streets, will be converted entirely to a single family residence. The new owner plans to remove the back addition and replace it with a garage. The house is quite old, she said, and has not been updated inside for years.
“A lot of people look at the structure as is,” said Kelly, and make repairs and renovations without new construction.
She noted that the owner is a returning Vermonter and wants to reinvest in the community and be part of it.
Photo by Julia Purdy
Building Inspector Bob Tanner, right, and Health Officer Mike Bookman prepare to seal up the front door of 14 Chaplin Ave. again, after the open house July 12.