Dilapidated and decrepit buildings in town have been a source of contention for many residents over the years.
To address that, the Town Council passed the Unsafe Premises Ordinance in 2018 to deal with the issue. But now the Council could be ready to take it one step further.
The Unsafe Premises Ordinance was originally adopted by the Council with a sunset period extending to 2019. Last year, the Council voted to extend the ordinance through 2020, and extended it again this fall through 2021, allowing for Councilors to consider full adoption of the ordinance along with the possibility of adding a blight ordinance to the mix.
In October, the Cheshire Town Council held a public hearing regarding the Unsafe Premises Ordinance. Councilor David Veleber, a supporter of the ordinance, explained its brief history in town and what it has been used for in the past.
“The ordinance has been an important tool for the Fire Marshal, Human Services Department, and other Town departments to assist residents with premises issues and any unsafe conditions on the premises,” Veleber explained.
The ordinance can apply to any town property that may be considered unsafe due to neglect. In Cheshire’s case, the Fire Chief Jack Casner is the individual who enforces any Unsafe Premises issues.
The ordinance does not cover properties that are structurally sound but may require superficial maintenance or additional yard work, such as lawn mowing.
“It has come to our attention as a Council that there are numerous residences in town (where) it is clear that the property owners have not taken care of their properties,” Veleber told The Herald. “These properties are affecting the property value of the surrounding neighbors, and some people just don’t want to look at the mess.”
Veleber, who is the chair of the Ordinance Committee, told The Herald that the committee is interested in recommending a blight ordinance, but needs to decide whether the ordinance should be added onto the existing Unsafe Premises Ordinance, or established as a separate one.
“The issue really isn’t whether or not we should have a blight ordinance, but rather how we incorporate it,” Veleber explained. “There is no real drawback to having a separate ordinance, and it would likely be clearer and easier to follow if it was separate, but that’s something the Ordinance Committee has to consider.”
At an Oct. 13 meeting of the Council, Assistant Town Manager Arnett Talbot read a letter into the record from resident and former Town Council member Bonnie DiMauro, regarding the current ordinance and the need for an additional blight ordinance.
“I am in favor of extending the Unsafe Premises Ordinance. In fact, I don’t see why this has not been made a permanent ordinance,” the letter states. “However, of equal or more importance, I believe we need a generalized blight ordinance for our town. In 2017, this was discussed because of a hoarding case, but the ordinance was scaled back to simply address structural safety and health issues.”
The letter goes on to identify numerous properties in Cheshire that DiMauro believes have been “unkempt and unsightly.” DiMauro’s letter also brought up an issue with a property on Highland Avenue, which she tried to address when she was on the Council in 2000 and hopes to address once again.
“Ironically, the property is right at the edge of our Historic District. When I moved here in 1975, the property was a mess, and to this day no improvements have been made,” wrote DiMauro.
DiMauro did not specify what property she was referring to in her letter.
While Veleber did state that a decision would not be ready to present by the next Town Council meeting, he did say a decision would be made “soon.”