Draft ordinance under further review

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PROSPECT — The town’s proposed blight ordinance could undergo some changes before coming to the public again.

The Town Council held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance on Jan. 20. Approximately 40 people attended the meeting, and the opinions on the proposal were mixed.

“It was one of our better attended meetings,” Town Council Chairman Thomas Galvin said. “I’d say 90 percent of the people who were there were either folks who felt they lived next to properties that were blighted or ones that were concerned their house might be defined as blighted under the ordinance.”

Town Council member Theresa Graveline, who chairs the Ordinance Subcommittee, said she was pleased with how many people came out to the hearing.

“It truly is important to have that exchange of information and ideas in small-town government. It’s the essence of a small-town government,” Graveline said.

The proposed ordinance would define blight and give the town the ability to issue warnings and civil penalties against violators. Under the proposed ordinance any individual, civic organization, municipal agency or town employee would be able to file a written complaint about blight. The anti-blight commission, which would be created under the ordinance, would consider the complaint and take action if warranted.

Both Galvin and Graveline said the proposed ordinance could undergo some changes because of the issues residents raised during the public hearing.

“There were some good questions,” Galvin said. “One of the questions was whether the identity of the person making complaint would be available. Would that be something someone can question and find out? We will be checking with our attorney.”

Graveline said the one way to deal with the issue of anonymity in making a complaint would be to give the anti-blight commission the power to identify potentially blighted areas.

“I believe we need to establish the ability for the anti-blight commission to be able to identify potentially blighted properties as a commission,” Graveline said.

Under the current proposed ordinance, the commission would only be able to look into a blighted property if someone files an official complaint.

Graveline said the subcommittee would look over the ordinance once again to ensure it is fair to all parties involved.

“People were concerned whether the ordinance would be applied fairly and equally and handled compassionately,” Graveline said. “We don’t want to be overly aggressive towards our citizens at all.”

Graveline said the town hopes the ordinance will curb the problems with blight the town is facing.

“The real purpose of putting this ordinance into place is to establish a procedure for the town to be able to follow and to have guidelines to address the issue. We don’t have any right now,” Graveline said. “Although it is something we wish we didn’t have to do, there is a need to address blight.”

The Town Council will hold a second public hearing on the proposed ordinance at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Town Hall. The Ordinance Subcommittee was expected to meet before then to discuss the ordinance and possibly make changes.

Copies of the current draft of the proposed ordinance can be found at Town Hall, the Prospect Senior Center, the Prospect Public Library, or online at www.townofprospect.org.