Public hearing on blight ordinance set for March 12

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

A public hearing will be held at the next Town Council meeting on Monday, March 12 so the council can hear from residents on a proposed change to the language of the blight ordinance. Cheryl Lounsbury from the ordinance committee proposed the changes to the council at the Feb. 26 meeting.

The purpose of the ordinance is to define, prohibit and abate blights and nuisances including unsightly materials and unregistered and inoperable motor vehicles from property within the town and to protect, preserve and promote public health, safety and welfare, and to preserve and protect property values.

The two proposed changes for the blight ordinance are noted in section 5-38 (notice of violations) and 5-39 (penalties and enforcement). The “tweaks” as Lounsbury said are an effort to strengthen the ordinance.

The first proposed change would be to allow unsigned complaints to be submitted to the town. Currently, all complaints must be signed when presented to the Town Manager. The proposed change strengthens that language but stipulates that “unsigned complaint forms will be reviewed to the extent possible.”

“It doesn’t have to be signed, and the reason is, there could be someone with anger management or emotional issues, and [the person reporting the blight] may be afraid of retribution,” said Lounsbury. “But, if we have a blight situation and if you bring it to the town, we hope that you are willing to stand up to it and to own that report and take responsibility.”

The second proposed change increases the strength of penalties and further defines criminal violations. Lounsbury explained that the ordinance is not punitive, and that the hope is the town can work with the person who is being reported as having blight.

If they are elderly, disabled, sick or have a physical condition that prevents them from being able to remove the blighted property, the town has ways to work with them on a remediation plan.

“There are some people who just don’t adhere to the plans we develop in conjunction with them, so we wanted to tweak the ordinance and give it more teeth,” Lounsbury said. “There are also some times in the past where the neighbor uses the blight ordinance as a kind of mischievous situation to cause problems in the neighborhood. We want to mitigate that as much as possible.”

The proposed change to the ordinance states that each violation of the ordinance shall be considered a separate municipal offense. Each day any violation continues shall constitute a separate offense. Each separate offense under this ordinance shall be punishable by a fine of the maximum amount allowed by Connecticut General Statutes payable to the town of Southington.

The maximum fine for each day the violation continues, according to the state’s General Statutes, is $250. The Southington Police Department has the authority to issue a citation or summons for a violation of the ordinance.

Any resident of Southington may address the proposed changes to the ordinance during the public hearing on March 12 at the municipal center at 7 p.m.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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