Council takes first blight remediation action

The Prospect Town Council last week voted to remediate what town officials deemed blight at the home at 52 Williams Drive. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — The town is preparing to remediate blight on private property for the first time since the Anti-Blight Commission formed in early 2015.

The Town Council last week voted 7-1 to move forward with blight remediation at 52 Williams Drive.

If the town moves forward, the Public Works Department or a remediation company will clean up the property. Under the town’s blight ordinance, the cost of the remediation, which has not been calculated, would be placed against the house as a lien.

The home is owned by Timothy and Beatrice Meehan.

According to a letter to the council from Anti-Blight Commission Chair Brenda Martin, the commission sent a warning notice to the Meehans on Dec. 7, 2017 regarding items, including wooden pallets, cars and machinery, strewn about the property.

The notice gave the Meehans 30 days to remediate the problem. Although the Meehans moved some debris out of the front yard, the letter states the blighted conditions remained and the commission issued them a citation in March.

A hearing was held in May after which the hearing officer found the Meehans liable for the violations in the citation. In August, the commission sent the Meehans a letter stating they had until Sept. 6 to remediate the blight or the commission would request the council proceed with a remediation process.

Timothy Meehan told the council there was blight in his front yard, but it has since been moved.

“I did have some blight on the property and I did remediate it. Now it’s in my back yard and cannot be seen because it is behind my house,” he said.

The debris on the property is still visible by adjacent property owners, Martin told the council.

“It was brought to us that a lot of what was in the front was brought around the side of the property and back of the property and covered with tarps.” Martin said.

Meehan said he works two jobs to make ends meet and he’s working hard to keep his home in order.

“I am trying to do what I can do,” Meehan said.

Meehan said he’s not sure what the commission considers blight.

“I have yet to get specifically what they are looking for me to remediate. What is blight? I do not consider a piece of patio furniture blight. To me a pallet is not considered blight,” Meehan said.

George Hughes, who lives near Meehan, said the blight has been an issue for two decades.

“This is not a last-year thing. This is 20 years in the making,” Hughes said. “Don’t let this thing linger. … My advice to you is continue helping us out in the neighborhood.”

Meehan said he would not accept the council’s decision and did not want anyone coming onto his property.

“In my opinion, if you approve this you are approving criminal trespass and theft. Is it not considered criminal trespass and theft? You are trespassing on my property without my permission,” he said. “If they come in to remediate they do not have my permission.”

Town Council member Megan Patchkofsky, who voted against the motion to move forward, felt the council needs to be careful because it will set a precedent with its action.

“While we have a duty to the Anti-Blight Commission to make sure we follow the ordinance, we also have a duty to everyone in town, fallen on hard times or not, to try to help them without trying to publicly embarrass them,” Patchkofsky said.

Mayor Robert Chatfield said the council would also set a precedent if it didn’t act.

“If you don’t follow this now it is not going to work in the future,” Chatfield said.

Attorney Jennifer Yoxall, who represents the town, said the Meehans can avoid having the town remediate their property if they come to the Anti-Blight Commission meeting on Nov. 1 with proof that they have cleaned up the property.

“If it has been remediated already, there will be nothing for the town to do,” Yoxall said.

Correction: The original post reported the Prospect Anti-Blight Commission had photos taken from an aerial view of the property cited for blight. The commission did not have photos from an aerial view of the property.