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Ledyard blight ordinance tabled - again

By Anna Isaacs

Publication: The Day

Published January 10. 2013 4:00AM

Ledyard - The Ledyard Town Council voted yet again to table a blight ordinance that has spent years in the works.

Comments from two public hearings late last year had bounced the proposal back to the Administration Committee for edits several times - namely removing some muddy language and specifying that anyone designated by the mayor would be able to enforce the ordinance.

Steve Eichelberg, committee chairman and council member, has said the blight ordinance's purpose would largely be to target industrial or commercial properties and foreclosed or unmaintained bank-owned properties, giving the town a tool through which officials could ask that a lawn be mowed or repairs be made.

Immediately following this latest public hearing, questions and criticism from several residents sent the draft back once more for further editing and clarification. Eichelberg said the committee will also incorporate recommendations by the town attorney.

Eric Treaster, former chairman of the now-defunct Zoning Commission - which merged with the Planning Commission under Chairman Mike Cherry toward the end of last year - noted what he said were "serious deficiencies" in the latest version of the ordinance.

Treaster said the definition of blight is "too fuzzy" and establishes a threshold for blight that is "too low."

"It's too easy to determine that a building with one or two broken windows establishes blight," he said.

One resident questioned the need for the ordinance and asked council members for a hard number of how many properties in town actually meet the definition of "blight." Another resident said the ordinance could burden financially struggling homeowners and limit freedom of expression.

While the council had no official tally of blighted properties, Town Council Chairwoman Linda Davis said there are enough cases to warrant official language dealing specifically with blight.

Davis has said that blight is one of the most frequent causes for phone calls to her office.

The current draft of the blight ordinance can be found on the town website.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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