The ever-changing proposed blight ordinance is at risk of becoming a blight of its own on town commissions’ various agendas as the thing has plodded and stalled its way through various stages of review and consideration for years now.
The Town Council wants to adopt the ordinance or else they would have dismissed the idea long ago, but not everyone is on board. Some people say the town should just enforce the current zoning regulations better.
One Patch user wrote, “I want to see the town shine as much as anybody but...My fear is that the control freaks and selfish manipulators will miss use this power for assaults on neighbors and businesses…it opens the door for harassment by the towns snobby elitists.”
But others say there is a definite problem of junk piles in Gales Ferry and Ledyard.
Another Patch user wrote, “How about the foreclosures that the banks aren't upkeeping? The house across the street from me has been vacant for two years!! Two years! There is a huge dead tree in the front yard and the yard is totally overgrown.”
And that’s exactly what Town Councilor Steve Eichelberg says the ordinance is meant to address. The ordinance doesn’t stray or differ greatly from the building code and zoning regulations in place now but it does establish a way for the town to cite and fine residents for violations.
The most recent draft (Nov. 14, 2012) of the proposed blight ordinance describes its intent as, “It is hereby found and declared that there exist within the Town of Ledyard blighted taxable and tax-exempt real premises. It is further found that the existence of these blighted premises adversely affects property values within the Town and may threatens the health, safety and general welfare of its residents.”
The draft defines blight as such:
BLIGHTED PREMISES – Any building, structure, premises or any part of a structure that is a separate unit, in which any of the following or any combination of the following conditions exists:
A. It is in a condition which poses a serious threat to the safety, health, and general welfare of the resident or neighbors as determined by any of the following: Director of Health, Zoning Enforcement Official, Fire Marshall or Building Official.
B. Abandoned/vacant building structure as defined in Section 117.1.1 of the 2009 Amendment to the 2005 State Building Code that has become an illegal residence as documented by the Blight Enforcement Official. .
C. It is not being maintained and contributes to housing decay, as evidenced by one or more of the following existing conditions, or combination thereof:
a. Any structure which is in a state of dilapidation or decay or is open to the elements or unable to provide shelter or serve the purpose for which it was constructed due to damage, dilapidation or decay;
b. Premises containing accumulating debris; and
c. Landscaping on any premises, including, but not limited to, trees, shrubs, hedges, grass and plants, which physically hinder or interfere with the lawful use of abutting premises or block or interfere with the use of any public sidewalk or right-of-way or any road sign.
D. Is a fire hazard as determined by the Fire Marshal or documented by fire department records.
The public is welcome to make comments on any of the points in the ordinance tonight. For instance, former Zoning Commission Chairman Eric Treaster wrote in to have his comments submitted to the record.
His letter begins with, “I agree the Town (unfortunately) has as need for a housing blight ordinance. However, because of constitutional protection of property rights, blight ordinances are difficult to draft in a manner that is effective, lawful, fair and objective, that will enable uniform enforcement, and adequate to protect the Town. The ordinance, as proposed, is unclear, difficult to understand, and appears to have technical deficiencies that should be resolved prior to its adoption.”
Further down, Treaster, who served on the Zoning Commission for 27 years until it was dissolved by the Town Council late last year, offers a number of informed recommendations, changes and corrections to the Town’s draft. Treaster based his recommendations on ordinances that have been successful when challenged in court.
The public hearing on the blight ordinance is at 6:15 in the Town Council Chambers, which is located in the Town Hall Annex.