Repeat offenders have found ways to skirt around Southington's blight ordinance in the past, but that could change with a new set of regulations passed this week.
The voted unanimously Monday evening to approve changes to the ordinance that stiffen penalties to the maximum allowed under state law, particularly limiting the presence of unused vehicles allowed on a property.
“We wanted to strengthen the blight ordinance and do so in way that clearly defines what blight is,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Lounsbury.
The town’s when residents of Germania Street brought up complaints over an ongoing problem with one of the property owners at 77 Germania Street, where resident Mario Simeone has continually challenged and refused to comply with the blight ordinance since it was established nearly five years ago.
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The property has long been cluttered with unused cars, many which are also unregistered.
He is also one of a handful of property owners in the community that have continued to violate the town’s blight ordinances in the past, officials said.
The newest regulations, which not only require fines of the maximum amount per day allowed under state law – currently that sits at $50 – but also restrict any vehicles from sitting unused on front yards or in driveways for any extended period of time.
Councilman John Barry is concerned that the stiff regulations could prove detrimental to those in the community who may be interested in learning to fix up cars an could also lead to neighbors who aren’t getting along to file a complaint out of spite.
Barry, a Democrat, found support in Republican Al Natelli Jr. who also shared concerns that the rules are stiff and don’t take into consideration certain rights of property owners.
“I’d hate to see a case where a young person, or even a person in 40s, doesn’t have right to work on vehicle in their driveway,” Barry said. “I’m raising questions now because this situation will occur. It seems to me like taking property rights totally away. If they have two, three, six cars then it’s a junkyard, but one?”
But the council voted 6-2 with Peter Romano absent against a proposal by Natelli and Barry to change the language, saying there is a defined and fair process in place and that allowing the change would counter the goal of “adding teeth” to the ordinance.
Garry Brumback said the enforcement team would review each complaint and look at each blight issue individually before determining if it is a violation. Furthermore, Mark Sciota said there is an appeals process that provides the property owners equal rights.
“We are reviewing this because we want to have teeth,” said Councilwoman Miceli. “With the blight enforcement team will have more oversight and look closer than have in the past.”
The council also passed changes to an ordinance this week that update the town’s alcohol policies to reflect state laws, allowing for sale of alcohol on Sundays and allowing restaurants without liquor permits to have patrons bring their own wines and beers.
A third ordinance change will now allow for seeing-eye and assist dogs to be allowed on the .
Changes to a fourth ordinance regarding the role of the Senior Citizen Commission in providing oversight of the was sent back to committee Monday, however, after a lengthy public hearing into the matter. .
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