Court sides with Prospect in blight case

The Waterbury Superior Court ruled that the town of Prospect can clean up this property on Clark Hill Road if owner Peter Thomas doesn't clean it up by March 1.

PROSPECT — After years of asking nicely, the town is ready to forcefully clean up one of the “worst blighted” properties in town.

In a ruling Jan. 5, the Waterbury Superior Court gave the town of Prospect the go-ahead to enter the property at 96 Clark Hill Road and remove abandoned vehicles and other detritus.

Property owner Peter Thomas, 66, has until March 1 to remove furniture, car parts, and other debris before town workers or contractors can come in and start cleaning up, according to Land Use Inspector Bill Donovan. The town has to give Thomas 48 hours notice before entering his property. Once the junk is removed, the town can charge Thomas for the cost and place a lien on his property if he doesn’t pay.

“In general, I think it was pretty fair all the way around. I am in violation of the zoning code. The town has given me plenty of time,” said Thomas, who has lived on the two-acre property since 1985.

Thomas, who represented himself during the legal proceedings, said he intended to comply with three cease-and-desist orders the town issued him beginning in 2004, but it’s been difficult. In the past, he said, he wanted to put up a plastic shed to store items but the town’s regulations won’t allow it.

Retired from Uniroyal after 30 years, Thomas works part-time to put his two children through college.

“What the town considers junk I consider a source of income.  … I’m struggling any which way I can to put them through school,” Thomas said.

Weather-permitting, Thomas hopes to clean up most of the items before the town comes in.

“I’m going to do what I can. It’s hard and it’s expensive, and it’s a big problem for me,” said Thomas, who added he has a bad leg, and has had back operations.

Donovan said the junk on the property has gotten progressively worse over the past ten years, since he sent his first letter to Thomas in 2000. Thomas signed an agreement last year to remove all the waste by Aug.15, 2011. The deadline was extended twice due to an injury and Tropical Storm Irene, but a dumpster on the property was still empty as of Sept. 6, 2011, and the rest of the junk was unchanged, according to court documents.

In 2006, the town fined Thomas $1,800 for his violations. He will also have to pay $500 for the town’s legal costs.

“I don’t want to keep taking money from the poor man,” Donovan said. However, Donovan said he couldn’t keep ignoring the problem.