Town serves notice on blighted property

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PROSPECT — The town has turned to legal action in an effort to have a resident clean up his blighted property.

On April 10, a marshal served a notice to Peter Thomas, of 96 Clark Hill Road, informing him that if nothing is done about the blight in his yard, the town, at its discretion, has the right to come onto his property and begin cleaning up.

This notice comes after a nearly a 12-year struggle between Thomas and the town.

In 2000, Land Use Inspector Bill Donovan sent a letter to Thomas, letting him know he was in violation of the town’s regulations on blight.

In 2004 the town issued the first of three cease-and-desist orders to Thomas in regards to the blight in his yard.

Thomas had signed an agreement with the town to remove the items from his property by August 15, 2011. Due to Tropical Storm Irene and an injury, that deadline was extended twice.

Thomas, for his part, does not see the items around his yard as blight. He retired from Uniroyal 30 years ago and has two children that he is putting through college. He sells items he has collected to help offset the costs of his children’s education.

“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 in a previous interview.

According to the town, however, Thomas was in violation of the regulations regarding blight and he wasn’t doing anything about it. So, the town took Thomas to court over the issue.

On Jan. 5 the court found Thomas, who represented himself during the proceedings, in contempt of Prospect’s regulations. He was given until March 1 to bring his property into compliance or else the town could come onto the property and clean it up.

If the town has to clean up Thomas’ property, it can charge Thomas for the cost and place a lien on his property if he doesn’t pay.

The notice was a reminder to Thomas that the town had not forgotten about the blight on his property.

During a Zoning Board meeting last Wednesday, Donovan explained that this was an unprecedented situation for the town.

“This is a first for everybody, so I can’t tell you what happened last time,” Donovan said.

The notice gave Thomas 48 hours to begin removing the blight.

Donovan told the board that he has noticed that Thomas has removed some of the blight since the notice was sent.

“I will say, maybe because there’s a chance that the town is really serious about this, Peter has been making some significant improvements on his property. I think he’s taken out six or seven vehicles already,” Donovan said.

While seven vehicles only puts a dent in the blight Thomas has accumulated, Donovan felt it was a step in the right direction.

“He’s got a way to go, but it is a lot better than it was a year ago, for sure,” Donavan said.