CHESHIRE — After hearing from opponents and proponents of a proposed blight ordinance, Town Council members are still considering the new law.
Under the ordinance, property owners face fines of $100 per day for each violation that’s not fixed by a town-set deadline. The measure under consideration by the council’s ordinance review committee also defines blight and unsafe premises that would result in fines.
The proposal allows residents to submit written and signed complaints about blight or unsafe premises to the town’s blight enforcement officer. That position hasn’t been assigned, according to Councilor Patti Flynn-Harris, but could be the fire marshal.
Flynn-Harris, ordinance committee chairwoman, read portions of the law at a council meeting this week.
“We were trying to take into consideration the rights of property owners as well as address situations that could be detrimental to the health and welfare of the property owner and neighbors,” she said.
The blight proposals would include businesses as well as residences. Blight would included dilapidated structures as well as garbage, mechanical devices and unregistered cars visible from a public right-of-way.
Councilors were conflicted on the ordinance and the prospect of more closely regulating people’s property.
“I get a little concerned not only with the rights of residents but the rights of businesses,” said Tom Ruocco. He worried that the blight ordinance might cause issues for the nurseries in town. “I think it’s a slippery slope.”
Councilor David Veleber said the ordinance could protect the property rights of homeowners around a blighted property. He said residents frequently tell him the town should do more to address unsightly properties that hurt land values.
“It’s not just about the person’s property rights but it’s about the neighbor’s property rights as well,” Veleber said.
Councilor Sylvia Nichols was among those who still had concerns about the ordinance.
“I still am not 100 percent convinced but I’m eager to hear what changes the committee would recommend to us,” she said.
Under the ordinance, town officials could allow more than the prescribed 30 days to rectify blight problems if a property owner could show good cause. Reasons for good cause included age and disability.
The ordinance would be in place for one year if enacted. Flynn-Harris said that was an important element to allow town officials to evaluate how it might work.
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