Council approves blight ordinance


PROSPECT — The town will soon have a way to address blight concerns.

The Town Council unanimously approved a blight ordinance at its Feb. 17 meeting.
The ordinance defines blight, gives the town the ability to issue warnings and civil penalties against violators and creates an anti-blight commission. The ordinance takes effect 30 days after it is published in a local newspaper and is likely to go into effect around the beginning of April.

The council only made one change to the draft ordinance before adopting it.

In the draft ordinance, violators faced a civil penalty of $100 a day if remedial actions aren’t completed in 30 days. The ordinance subcommittee felt that was too high and changed it to $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.

“We all pretty much feel it shows the compassion, concern and fairness that we wanted to show for our residents,” said Town Council member Theresa Graveline, who chairs the ordinance subcommittee, about the change.

Town Council Chairman Thomas Galvin said the point of the civil penalties is to encourage people to clean up their properties without the town collecting any money.

The town is now looking for five residents interested in serving on the anti-blight commission.

“It’s going to take someone who has some tact, some people skills, and some ability to understand the ordinance and follow the spirit of the ordinance without being overly aggressive,” Graveline said.

Town Council member Jeffrey Slapikas, who is on the ordinance subcommittee, said the town needs to make sure it chooses people for the commission who do not have an agenda.

The adoption of the ordinance comes after two public hearings where people voiced their opinions in favor and against the ordinance. Among the concerns raised were that the town needed a warrant before remediating blight on someone’s property, and the ordinance overlaps too much with the rules that the Chesprocott Health District already has in place.

The ordinance gives the town the power to clean up a property if blight issues persist.
Graveline said if an issue reaches this point, the town will notify the property owner that it’s the town’s intention to remediate.

“We’ll say, ‘This in the plan, this is our intent, and this is when we will begin.’ At that point they do not need a warrant to go on the property and remediate the blight. No one without permission, however, can go into a structure,” Graveline said.

While Chesprocott addresses some violations of sanitary conditions, Graveline said, the ordinance is more comprehensive and allows the town to take action to correct the problem.

“One thing people should understand about this ordinance is it is really a public nuisance ordinance. It is really addressing complaints people have as members of the public about junk and debris,” Graveline said.

Town Council member Patricia Geary voiced support for the ordinance and the spirit in which it was crafted.

“I think it is pretty obvious, as you’ve stated, that it is never your intention to get somebody or to stick it to them,” Geary said.

Geary said she hopes elected officials in the future continue with the intention of the ordinance.

“My only hope is that that those who come after you and us remember why it was developed and not changed their attitudes by using this in a different way,” Geary said.