Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Tool to Fight Blight

Other communities share similar problems as South Berkeley-North Oakland. See the efforts below in this Connecticut community to address blight. A common theme is shared community values for maintaining properties and addressing blight and the notion that blight ordinances are largely complaint driven.

Posted by Shore Publishing on Aug 14 2008, 11:06 AM

By Becky Coffey, Harbor News Senior Staff Writer:


Living next to a property whose owner doesn’t share community standards for upkeep and cleanliness can be frustrating–your own property value could take a hit and it might affect outdoor enjoyment of your property. If the condition of the neighbor’s property is poor enough, it could even pose a public health hazard by attracting disease-bearing rodents and other animals. A proposed town blight ordinance would give zoning officials a new tool to correct these unsightly nuisances.

After several months of discussion, the town’s Board of Selectmen voted this month to set a public hearing for Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall for members of the public to comment on the proposed blight ordinance.

“Blight can devalue that property and adjacent properties,” said First Selectman Michael Pace.

Pace said that typically when owners are made aware of issues with their property–bushes that encroach too much on the sidewalk, debris in the yard, etc.–they will fix it.

“It’s about raising the consciousness of people,” Pace continued.

The proposed eight-page ordinance includes a definition of blight and obliges a property owner, lessee, or occupant to comply with the provisions of the ordinance once adopted. Also included is a description of the enforcement procedures for any owner found violating the ordinance’s provisions and of the appeals process for notices of violation.

To trigger enforcement of the ordinance if it is approved, a member of the public must file a written complaint about a blight condition. The written complaint must be submitted to the first selectman or his designee. If a subsequent investigation concludes that an ordinance violation has occurred, then the town would issue a notice of violation and serve it on the owner, his or her agent, or the occupant of the premises. The notice would include an outline of and timeline for the remedial action to be taken.

The ordinance also includes a provision to slap penalties on owners who refuse to comply.

Pace acknowledged that some are concerned about government telling people how to use their property.

For him, though, the ordinance has one, simple goal: “This is about being a good neighbor.”

The Board of Selectmen’s public hearing on the proposed blight ordinance is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Level Conference Room of Town Hall.

Defining Blight

The proposed eight-page ordinance provides a new tool for zoning enforcement officers to urge owners to correct blight conditions on their properties. Its main provisions include a definition of blight, a section describing the notice-of-violation process, an appeals process, and finally, a section describing penalties and enforcement procedures.

The ordinance states it is a “public nuisance for any person owning, leasing, occupying, or having charge or possession of any premises…in such a manner that any of the following conditions exist thereon, which shall be defined as blight:”

a) any structure which is dilapidated or open to the elements

b) premises with a structure for human occupancy where grass, weeds, or similar vegetation are allowed to reach and remain at a height of 10 inches or longer for a period of 10 days or longer, excluding certain flowers, fruits, and landscaping

c) dead or decaying trees that pose a hazard

d) more than one unregistered and “unstreetable” motor vehicles in the public view

e) property with any combination of three or more pieces of non-operational mechanical equipment, excluding licensed motor vehicles

f) property with accumulated debris or with landscaping that physically hinders or interferes with the lawful use of abutting premises or which blocks or interferes with a public sidewalk and/or private street or right-of-way or any road sign.

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