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Council Considers Strength of Anti-Blight Language

Two councilmen urged the Ordinance Committee to limit the powers of the ordinance.

 

The Legislative Council Ordinance Committee met Wednesday with two councilmen who expressed their concern that a new anti-blight ordinance the committee is drafting might be more expansive than necessary.

Councilmen Paul Lundquist and George Ferguson aren’t members of the Ordinance Committee, but they participated in the committee’s discussion concerning what should and shouldn’t be considered as neighborhood blight and what enforcement actions town officials should take.

“Do we truly need this ordinance?” Lundquist asked, noting that the Borough requested a new enforcement measure but this legislation would apply to the entire town.

“I just wanted to make sure that we’re not leading to something that has unintended consequences,” said Lundquist, a Democrat who joked that he risked sounding like a Republican by advocating limited government powers.

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Committee Chairman Mary Ann Jacob said there have actually been neighborhood blight complaints by residents of all parts of Newtown, not just those from the Borough. The committee’s three main concerns were about safety, health and possible illegal activities.

Ferguson raised a question about the definition of what constitutes blight. The draft ordinance prohibits outside storage of unregistered vehicles and equipment that “are in an obvious state of disrepair and decay” and “no longer in a condition allowing them to be used for the purpose for which they were designed.”

But a neighbor of his has a rusty, old piece of farm equipment in his yard that serves as an attractive, rustic decoration. Ferguson said he would not call that blight, but another neighbor might.

Lunquist said some residents might keep an old, rusty, unregistered vehicle to do restoration work on it, but a zealous enforcement officer might take action against it.

The two councilmen and members of the committee weren’t concerned that any current town officials would take overzealous actions, but they discussed the need to write the ordinance carefully so it couldn’t be abused in the future by other personnel.

The ordinance gives the enforcement responsibility to an official designated by the Board of Selectmen to provide accountability and make sure it wouldn’t have to be rewritten if town departments were reorganized.

It also provides for fines of $100 a day plus attorney fees for violations. The enforcement officer would have the discretion to grant a six-month grace period to give the property owner more time to correct a blight violation, but not if the owner owes back taxes.

The ordinance also includes an appeals process. Historic buildings are not exempt from its regulations, but the ordinance does not override the authority of the Historic District Commission to halt an order the demolition of an historic building to address a blight condition.

Discussion on the ordinance will resume at the committee’s next meeting on Jan. 9. Council Chairman Jeffrey Capeci, who is a committee member, said he wants it completed and approved in time to go into effect next spring.

Danny Jovanelly November 20, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Not everyone is a white collar worker that never gets his hands dirty. One persons old motor vehicle may be junk to you, your new imported s.u.v. may be junk to them. Who do you think cleaned up all the trees and branches from the last storm? Who got the electricity back on? It wasn't office workers sitting in chairs molded to the shapes of their bottoms who spend their days in heated and air conditioned offices; it was people who work long hours with their hands and fix things for money so that they can pay their taxes. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons' houses, papers, and effects, against UNREASONABLE searches and seizures, shall not be VIOLATED."
Sam Mihailoff November 20, 2012 at 09:50 PM
sorry Susan, wildflowers are no longer allowed here in Stepford. Please see Blight Ordinance: page 74...paragraph 7....sub-section F
wendy lee hewitt November 26, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Unfortunately, the people that really NEED to see this article and subsequent comments won't ever see it. They regard themselves as being 'above' public questioning and scrutiny. – Opening the door to individual (appointed officials), interpretations of such matters as ‘blight’, invites a whole host of evil and greed into the mix. – If you want to see how slippery the slope can be, watch this incredible and acclaimed documentary. (link below) If you, like me, thought that the laws currently in place will protect your property from actions like ‘Eminent Domain’ or ‘Legal Condemnation’… think again. The fact that the question heading this forum is even being posed to the community, tells me that the land-grabbers are watching to see who speaks up. Trust me and trust the thousands of people who live less than 100 miles of Newtown, for they had their community and PROPERTY stolen and sold out from under them, legally. Here’s the link to a film that will leave you speechless, incredulous and most likely, furious. http://battleforbrooklyn.com/post/31284809409/as-jay-z-opens-the-barclays-center-the
wendy lee hewitt November 26, 2012 at 07:59 PM
(This is addressed to the new elite of Newtown). I hate seeing what Newtown has become. Such arrogance, snobbery and greed...! So I guess it's ALL about your precious PROPERTY VALUES???? Please, go back where you came from! Oh, what's that you say?... You moved to Newtown from Stamford? You paid A LOT of money for your mansion?? Now you find that vacant houses with overgrown lawns repulse you?!? What should repulse you NYC-commuting, day-trading nouveau riche snobs is that Wall Street and banks are largely to blame for the horrid BLIGHT your tender eyes must bear witness to. How about doing some volunteer work, organize a group to look into these ‘blighted’ properties… see what YOU can do to HELP. Pool some of your expendable incomes to buy large plant containers & shrubs. Place them in front of the old Shell Station. Buy some paint. Have a ‘Beautification! Not Blight!’ Day in town. Paint the old building. Do something positive instead of clucking your tongues in disgust at the obvious tragedy of what once represented someone’s LIFE.
wendy lee hewitt November 26, 2012 at 08:04 PM
@ Mr. D : "Health and Safety hazards" ?? Really?? omg........ get a hobby Sir.

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