Proposed Blight Ordinance Targets Outside Clutter, Junk in Old Saybrook, CT

OLD SAYBROOK – A proposal to help eliminate junk scattered in yards across town is being discussed once again.

During the Jan. 17 Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Attorney Michael Cronin said state law allows towns to create laws regarding housing blight, abandoned and unregistered motor vehicles, and outside clutter and junk.

Cronin does not believe the town needs an ordinance dealing with housing blight since this applies mainly to inner-cities with abandoned and unsightly buildings.

While an ordinance could be created that would limit the number of unregistered and abandoned vehicles one can have on their property, Cronin focused his discussion on the portion prohibiting outside clutter.

Cronin said if an ordinance is passed, the Board of Selectmen could contemplate appointing a hearing officer who would work to detect violations and resolve issues.

Penalties for breaking the ordinance would be civil and range from $10 to $100 per day.

Cronin said several nearby towns, including Clinton and East Haddam, already have blight ordinance.

Clinton’s ordinance has been around for three years and Cronin said during that time, the town faced no litigation as a result of it.

First Selectman Michael Pace said while the town has talked to property owners who have excessive clutter in their yards, several do not voluntarily clean up their properties, which negatively impacts the property values of adjacent neighbors.

“People have the right to use their property but adjacent property owners have a right and the town has a general purpose right,” Pace said.

While admitting one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, Pace said he defines “junk” in a yard as “clutter which serves no purpose and is unsightly”.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Chris Costa and Building Official Don Lucas have already given their feedback regarding a proposed blight ordinance.

“The ordinance will only work if the community wants it to work and wants the ordinance,” Cronin said.

Pace does not believe the ordinance should have a provision regarding mowing of grass since he understands that some property owners only live in town during the summer months while other owners do not mow in an effort to be environmentally friendly.

While Clinton’s ordinance only applies to residential properties, Pace advocates an ordinance that would be crafted so that excessive clutter would be prohibited from commercial and industrial properties as well.

Cronin expects to come back to the Board of Selectmen with a proposed draft of the ordinance.

He recommends that the town have at least one public hearing giving residents an opportunity to understand how the ordinance could impact them before it goes to a town vote.

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