WESTPORT, Conn. — Westport will soon have a way to legally crack down on dilapidated homes throughout town now that the adoption of an anti-blight ordinance has been approved.
The ordinance — approved Tuesday by the Representative Town Meeting, the town’s legislative body — will establish the creation of a blight enforcement officer and a five-person Blight Prevention Board.
“The ordinance is intended to protect, preserve and promote public health, safety and welfare; to maintain and preserve the beauty of neighborhoods and to allow for control of blighted premises,” RTM District 2 Rep. Louis Mall said. Mall, with RTM colleagues Jimmy Izzo and Dewey Loselle, proposed the establishment of a Westport anti-blight ordinance.
The ordinance will allow residents who live near a run-down home to file a complaint. Complaints will then be investigated by the blight enforcement officer. If the officer determines the home in question to be blighted, the homeowner or property owner will be notified. The Blight Prevention Board, along with several other town departments, will also be notified, and a hearing will be set.
Although the blight enforcement officer may deem a home to be in violation, it is ultimately up to the board to make that distinction. If the board does determine a home to be blighted, the homeowner or property owner will be given a certain amount of time to rectify the problems.
If necessary corrections are not made in the allotted time, the homeowner or property owner will be fined $100 per day thereafter.
Realizing there are circumstances in which elderly, low-income, ill or disabled residents may fall behind on maintaining their homes, the ordinance will give special consideration to these residents, Mall said.
Several residents spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, including some who live near a dilapidated, abandoned home at 17 Wake Robin Road.
“There are very real safety concerns when you live next to one of these structures,” Wake Robin Road resident Seth Braunstein said. “Health problems, rodents— all kinds of things can potentially cause harm to people living next door.”
Resident David Royce, on the other hand, called it a “snobbery enforcement ordinance” and said it will penalize residents who are having a hard time getting by. He added that the ordinance will drive these residents out of town.
Richard Hoberman, a 14-year resident of Wake Robin Road, disagreed with Royce, saying the ordinance wouldn't be prejudicial.
“The situation at Wake Robin is not about taking someone who is sick or poor or has a mental illness and throwing them out of their home," Hoberman said. "It's an abandoned property.
"If this was about someone that was sick, I'd be the first one to go across the street and help the person, but that’s not what this is about. The property has affected the quality my family’s life, my children’s life and it’s a danger to the community."