Public opinion split on ordinance

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Prospect resident Paul Iadarola addresses the Town Council Tuesday night during a public hearing on a proposed blight ordinance at Town Hall. –LUKE MARSHALL
Prospect resident Paul Iadarola addresses the Town Council Tuesday night during a public hearing on a proposed blight ordinance at Town Hall. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — A public hearing on a draft blight ordinance drew a crowd Tuesday night.
About 40 people showed up for the hearing on the proposed ordinance, which would define blight and give the town the ability to issue warnings and civil penalties against violators.

“The Town of Prospect has been receiving complaints of blight for many years. What the town was not able to do all these years was actually address the problem because we have no rules in place, we have no guidelines in place,” Town Council member Theresa Graveline, who chairs the Ordinance Subcommittee, said.

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.

The commission would first issue a warning citation. The citation allows up to 30 days for the property owner to remediate the blight. If the blight is not remediated, the commission would fine the violator $100 a day, under the draft ordinance.

If the issue is not cleaned up, the commission has the authorization have the work done and then charge the property owner, under the draft ordinance.

According to the proposed ordinance, a property owner who is found in violation can appeal the decision.

The public sentiment on the proposed ordinance was split Tuesday night. Some residents were strongly in favor of it, while others felt it was an example of government overstepping its bounds.

“I’m all for the blight ordinance. I think it’s great. I’m glad somebody is addressing the issue,” resident Richard Sargeant said. “I’m glad you are doing something about it because you hear about other towns doing something about it.”

Resident Peter Blinstrubas felt the ordinance would help people protect their investments in their property.

“I don’t look at this as a means of neighbors turning in neighbors. I look at this as a recourse of your investment. So, I truly appreciate all this hard work to help us protect our investment. For most people their homes and their property is the largest investment they make in their lives and having a recourse to help protect that investment is extremely important,” Blinstrubas said.

Prospect police Officer Dave Santoro voiced support for the proposed ordinance on behalf of the police department. He said under state statutes the police department is allowed to help the town enforce its ordinances.

“Over the past years, the police department has gotten calls from neighbors complaining about other people’s property. We think it’s a good thing and the department is behind you 100 percent on this,” Santoro said.

However, not everyone saw the proposed ordinance as being helpful.

Resident Jim Decosta expressed concerns about what the ordinance could become in the future and the fact that other people would have to point out the blight.

“I’m afraid of it. I’m really afraid of it,” Decosta said. “How high does my grass have to be? To me, it’s none of your business. I’m sorry. I mow my grass generally every week, but I don’t believe it’s anybody’s business. Trimming my bushes? I keep them trimmed. I don’t think anybody wants to come back and look at my property. I don’t think they have the right to look at my property and say these kinds of things.”

Resident Peter Thomas said what some may consider blight, he considers a means to help make ends meet

“In a perfect world everybody would live in a perfect house with tulips on the sidewalks and lilac bushes in the corner, all trimmed with the lawn mowed neatly. Some of us, like myself, collect a little bit of junk and try to turn it into cash,” Thomas said. “I have a meager pension and am now collecting Social Security. It takes every dime I can get to live on and put my kids through school without going bankrupt.”

Town Council member Jeff Slapikas, who sits on the Ordinance Subcommittee, said the proposed ordinance is not intended to get anyone, but rather to protect residents.

“We’re not doing this looking to collect any money. We’re doing this for your security and your property and to make sure your investments are protected,” Slapikas said.

The Town Council scheduled a second public hearing on the proposed ordinance for Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The council is expected to discuss and take action on it following the close of that public hearing.

The full draft blight ordinance can be found online at www.townofprospect.org.