Council closes hearing on blight ordinance

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Prospect Town Council member Theresa Graveline, left, discusses the proposed blight ordinance during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting as council member Patricia Geary listens. –LUKE MARSHALL
Prospect Town Council member Theresa Graveline, left, discusses the proposed blight ordinance during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting as council member Patricia Geary listens. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — The Town Council closed the public hearing on the proposed blight ordinance Tuesday night.

The proposed ordinance would define blight and give the town the ability to issue warnings and civil penalties against violators. The ordinance would also create an anti-blight commission.

Some changes were made to the proposal leading up to the second public hearing on Tuesday. The biggest changes were made to the makeup and powers of the proposed anti-blight commission.

The number of members on the commission was increased from three to five people in the revised proposal. The commission would also have the ability to identify potentially blighted properties itself, rather than rely solely on complaints from the public.

Town Council member Theresa Graveline, who chairs the ordinance subcommittee, said the number of members on the commission was increased to allow for better representation.

“The feeling is that five people to interpret this ordinance would have a broader base and perhaps bring better comprehension of it and a fair representation of citizens to that commission,” Graveline said.

Graveline said the subcommittee chose to give the proposed anti-blight commission the power to identity blight itself to help deal with the issue of anonymity that was raised during the first public hearing.

Graveline said the forms a resident has to fill out regarding blight are not anonymous and public documents.

“By giving the anti-blight commission the ability not to just receive complaints, but actually to discuss at their meetings properties they are aware of that may be needing consideration, we’ve addressed some of the problem of anonymity,” Graveline said.

The revised proposal also allows a resident to respond to a warning notice rather than only having the ability to contest it after civil penalties have been levied. Also, once a request for a hearing is filed no civil penalties will be levied until a decision is made by the anti-blight commission.

During the public hearing Tuesday, residents spoke both in favor and against the proposed ordinance.

Those in favor generally felt the ordinance would help keep property values up and give neighbors the ability to do something against what they feel is blight. Those against the ordinance were concerned the town is overstepping its bounds by telling people what they could and could not have in their yards.

The council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance during its next meeting Feb. 17 at the Town Hall.