Committee to tackle blight issues

NAUGATUCK — Litter scattered on the sides of roads. Furniture placed on lawns for months. Grass that is taller than most pets.

These are some of the objectionable scenes that have marred too much of the borough’s landscape for too long, officials say.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess wants to get serious about fixing the problem.

He will form a task force of local officials and residents to beautify the community. Although the borough has had several initiatives in recent years to fight blight and improve downtrodden areas, Hess said this committee will be different in that it will differentiate among blight, simple neighbor disputes, and zoning issues, then get the correct person to address the problem. It will also attempt to tackle persistent pollution problems.

“We are going to implement a whole series of initiatives to strengthen our blight enforcement and beautification procedures,” Hess said.

That will include, he said, filing liens against property owners who do not comply with Naugatuck’s blight ordinance and possibly using a super lien process in which delinquent assessments would have priority over a lender’s mortgage to ensure they are paid in a timely manner.

The borough will also bring in prisoners and people who need to complete community service to clean the sides of roads under supervision. Hess said police Lt. Gregory M. Dean implemented that program last year and will continue it with Capt. Steven Hunt this year.

Dean and Hunt will serve on the committee with Hess, Mayor’s Aide Ed Carter and Sue Goggin, land use coordinator and zoning enforcement officer. Others may serve on the committee, Hess said.

Carter has been overseeing blight concerns for the past six years. He said the largest focus has been on vacant properties, which he believes the borough has made significant progress toward improving.

“Now, we’ve got minor issues; of course they are not minor to them but they are individuals who have issues with a neighbor or someone on their street,” he said. “People use blight as a generic term, but it’s often difficult to determine what is actually a blight because one person can look at a painting and think it’s beautiful, whereas another might not like it.”

He said educating residents about what is considered a blight under borough ordinances is necessary.

Burgess Rocky Vitale, who frequently speaks out against pollution and dumping in the Naugatuck Industrial Park, said he’s pleased the borough is addressing its litter issues.

“I’m sure it’s a problem everywhere,” he said. “The reason I focus on the industrial park is that to attract businesses, we need to keep it clean. We need them to come in and see that there aren’t mattresses on the side of the road, that it’s taken care of, that the grass is trimmed. It needs to be advertised in that way for when people come through.”