The Ledyard Town Council postponed the adoption of a blight ordinance Wednesday as a result of comments made by citizens during a public hearing.
The ordinance, which will give the town power to exact civil penalties from offending property owners, was sent back to committee after citizens pointed out omissions and conflicts.
“We may not nail it down but we’d like to get it right the first time,” said Councilor Kevin Dombrowski of the postponement.
Former chair of the now-dissolved Zoning Commission Eric Treaster was there to point out the problems with the proposed ordinance. Among many issues he had with the draft, the town’s threshold is too low and it’s too easy to establish a building as blight and the town’s ordinance does not contain nor does it refer to a specific definition of “dilapidated.”
“That was one of dozens of defects with the document,” he said.
The ordinance allows the town to assess a $25-a-day penalty on blighted property.
The Town Council agreed to reconsider and incorporate some of Treaster’s points into the next draft.
“If we pass it without those in, we’ll be taken to court,” said Councilor Mary McGrattan.
Treaster wasn’t the only who took issue with the ordinance.
Sharon Pealer stood in objection to the ordinance saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Pealer was concerned about hobby cars and cautioned the town to consider cultural differences and norms while evaluating what one person may consider blight.
Bil Burling, stood up with concerns about the boat he stores on his property and asked the council how big the problem is. They said that out of 6,200 to 6,300 houses in town they could only guess how many houses would be considered blighted.
“Why are you creating an ordinance for a problem that you can’t define and can’t give me hard numbers for,” asked Bil Burling.
Councilors Steve Eichelberg and Mike France said they saw six houses in the Avery Hill area that they considered blight.
Other property owners were hopeful that the ordinance would take care of some problems.
“I just want to thank the town for working for the residents of the town to ensure that their property values are protected,” said Drew Wesche. “Someone can now rest assured that there is some protection to prevent what you see here.” At that point, Wesche passed around Google Earth photos taken of a neighbor’s property that he found to be a blight.
Town Councilor John Marshall assured Mr. Burling that his boat will be safe from the ordinance’s penalties.
“If you have rats on your property going to your neighbors’, that’s what this is all about,” he said.