New Milford, New Fairfield consider blight ordinances
Two area towns are looking to clean up derelict properties with the introduction or revision of blight ordinances.
New Fairfield wrapped up its second public hearing on its proposal, making this its fourth attempt in six years to create a blight ordinance. New Milford also recently created a panel of town department heads to review its ordinance.
New Milford Town Attorney Matt Grimes said they are still unsure if they will repeal and replace the existing ordinance or just modify what was adopted in 1999. One of the challenges is that it is under the buildings section and isn’t a separate blight law.
“The idea is to make the definition of blight and blighted structures more encompassing,” Grimes said, adding it will probably become its own chapter in the town code.
Another change is creating a reserve fund so the building ordinance can be enforced. Grimes also said the current fine structure is complicated and needs to be revisited.
New Fairfield First Selectwoman Pat Del Monaco said the selectmen expect to set a town meeting date at their Dec. 13 meeting. She said they’ve already made changes based on residents’ comments and posted the final draft online.
Unlike previous failed attempts, New Fairfield’s latest ordinance focuses more on safety or code violations than aesthetics. It also adds a more defined process for property owners, including the creation of a blight prevention board that investigates the cases and offers an avenue for the property owner to speak. The selectmen also added special conditions that give more time to certain owners who might need it, including seniors, those with disabilities and low-income families.
“We really want to work toward getting these properties cleaned up,” Del Monaco said. “We want to work with the property owners.”
She said homeowners throughout town are worried about blighted properties next door that raise safety concerns or might hurt their property values.
“Many of the properties we’re concerned with now are abandoned properties,” Del Monaco said.
New Milford also decided to revisit its ordinance at some residents’ requests. It has not been changed since it was created about 20 years ago.
New Milford Mayor Pete Bass said that he hopes they can create something that will allow town officials to tackle blight from a variety of angles.
“We’re looking to make it so it better reflects the town’s needs,” he said.
Bass said blighted properties harm property values and businesses.
Both towns are incorporating oversight and input from the fire marshal, land use enforcement officer, building office and health director. New Milford also has the town attorney and members of the police department serving on its panel.
“It’s a collaborative effort to combat blight,” Grimes said.
He expects to have a public forum in January to get more ideas.
“We’re trying to get something that will benefit New Milford for years to come,” Grimes said.