Commission settling in to anti-blight role

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PROSPECT — The town’s Anti-Blight Commission has been hard at work since its formation.

“We’ve been working ourselves through the blight regulations,” Anti-Blight Commission Chairman Paul Krisavage said. “I think the commission as a whole has gelled. We are all working together and rowing in the same direction.”

The Town Council adopted a blight ordinance in February. The ordinance defines blight, gives the town the ability to issue warnings and civil penalties against violators and created the Anti-Blight Commission.

Krisavage said the commission has heard complaints on 19 properties since its inception. Of the 19, he said, the commission determined that six were not actually blight and sent the rest a warning notice.

“A couple that we sent out warning letters to, as we’re required to do, we’ve had a fairly good response from. Two of the properties have already been taken care of,” Krisavage said.

One of the main problems the commission has been running into is some of the homes that are considered blighted under the new ordinance are vacant.

“Some properties are not inhabited. So we are trying to touch base with owners. That has been the issue,” Krisavage said.

A few property owners have challenged the commission’s definition of blight.

“We’ve detailed blight on a couple properties where people are saying ‘I disagree with you.’ We have sent them photos of the blight on their properties,” Krisavage said.

Under the ordinance, property owners are able to come before the commission and argue their case. If the commission decides against property owners, and they still do not clean up their property, they could face citations and civil penalties. Violators face a civil penalty of $25 a day for the first 30 days, $50 a day for days 31 to 60 and $100 a day for each day beyond 60 days.
However, Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin hopes it doesn’t have to go that far.

Galvin said he hopes receiving a warning from the commission or having the threat of a civil penalty in place will be enough to encourage residents to clean their properties.

“We never want to collect a dime in fees,” Galvin said.

Krisavage said the commission has not issued any citations, yet, and wants to ensure everybody understands the regulations before moving forward.

“That’s part of the positive aspect of being in a small town, we are all of the same mindset. We want to work to get regulations right rather than just issue citations,” Krisavage said.

Krisavage said the way the commission decides which properties are in need of inspection are through complaints filed by residents.

“We receive a complaint form notice from the citizens of Prospect. We may get an anonymous complaint now and then, but we try not to entertain that,” Krisavage said.

When the commission receives a complaint, members will drive out to the property to see if the complaint is valid. The commissioners don’t go around town looking for blighted properties, Krisavage said.

“This is a volunteer post. I have better things to do than drive around town and form an opinion on people’s property,” Krisavage said.

Krisavage said the commission is still a “work in progress,” and he does not want the commission to become something that polices every aspect of a resident’s yard.

“Beauty is in the eye of beholder. There are no town standards. Prospect doesn’t have a historic district that has rules about how your property has to look. We know that properties represent individual personalities, we are just making sure those properties are safe,” Krisavage said.

Krisavage said the ultimate purpose of the commission is to protect the value of residents’ properties.

“It protects the property values of people who have invested time and effort in their houses. That’s really what we’re trying to do,” Krisavage said. “[My wife and I] have been where we are for 26 years. Our house is our investment. The commission wants to make sure the investment people put in their residence is maintained.”