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Meeting Recap: Blight Ordinance On Hold After Residents Speak Against It

More than 150 people attend public hearing, most oppose proposed ordinance.

More than 150 people attended a public hearing at Monday night and convinced town officials to hold off on bringing a draft of a proposed blight ordinance to a vote of the townspeople.

An overwhelming majority of people in attendence told town officials that the 11-page draft proposal called for laws that would have infringed on people's property rights; many went as far as to say it's downright unethical to impose fines - of $100 a day - upon people who may not be able to pay to repair properties that have fallen into a blighted condition, especially during difficult economic times.

Although some said they would like the proposed draft ordinance rewritten and shortened to make it more fair to residents, First Selectman George Temple said he no longer plans to bring any proposed blight ordinance before people at a town meeting at this point. He has cancelled a town meeting on the subject that was originally scheduled for Feb. 27.

"It's pretty obvious that people thought the way it was written was too restrictive," Temple said following the meeting.

He noted that Oxford will have a townwide cleanup in the spring; he hopes during that time many residents who may have a blight issue will voluntarily clean their properties. If people don't want to work to clean up their properties at that point, he may reconsider a blight ordinance, he said.

Several people who attended Monday's meeting also signed up to be a committee of volunteers who could be called to help clean up a property that has fallen into disrepair if the owner cannot take care of the property.

Most Disagreed With the Blight Proposal

An unofficial tally of people who spoke Monday showed 38 people were against the proposal as it was written, three were in favor of the document and two were in favor of some kind of blight ordinance but not the way it was written.

When a resident asked for a show of hands of people who were against the proposed blight ordinance, all but a few hands went up.

On the other hand, an unofficial tally of people who took a poll on Oxford Patch showed a different result. Of the 226 people who answered our question - Should the town of Oxford propose a blight ordinance? - there were 135 (or 59 percent) who voted 'yes' and 91 (or 40 percent) who voted 'no.' Please note it's not a scientific poll, and we did not specify the ordinance would be the draft that was proposed.

NOTE: We wanted to recap the meeting in a short format. We will update this article for the morning with more of the colorful dialogue that occurred during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

John M. Joy February 14, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Regarding: "On the other hand, an unofficial tally of people who took a poll on Oxford Patch showed a different result" Um, if your clear your cookies, or use a different browser (or machine), you could vote multiple times, so...
Rich Gee February 14, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Let's be candid here — the majority of properties with blight infractions are residents who rarely upkeep their property and tend to hoard vehicles, junk, and garbage. I feel the town government is trying to better Oxford and rein-in many of these infractions. Many surrounding towns have a similar measure - why should Oxford be different?
Paul Singley February 14, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Thanks for pointing that out. That's why I said it was unofficial and not a scientific poll.
Ethan Fry February 14, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Great picture, Paul!
John M. Joy February 14, 2012 at 10:32 AM
I'm sorry I had to, but, of late, I noticed an odd back-and-forth with the poll numbers, and had my suspicions, and tried it to be sure. (You should see exactly two votes from my IP.) The only thing I can think of that would effectively eliminate this would be to tie a poll vote to a user ID, but that would limit participation to those who have registered here.
Dan Dombal February 14, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This is difficult topic ---we live in an age where government is intruding into our lives in too many areas --A blight ordinance on the surface seems to make sense but the stretch of this group of community leaders or a future group could lead to situations that infringe on our individual rights - we need to proceed very carefully on this issue
Dan Dombal February 14, 2012 at 12:30 PM
We need to be careful with a blight ordinance- we live in a age when government is intruding into our freedoms - the concept of a blight ordinance makes sense however whether it be our current elected officials or a future team we have to be careful that they do give them the right to reach too far into our individual freedoms- I like the concept of a community volunteer team to work with people in the community to fight blight
Craig Zac February 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Response, first half: I read over the report PDF just really fast and it did seem pretty restrictive like stuff like, building materials on the property.. what if you are working on the house or something and have a bunch of left over planks and sheets of plywood? do you throw it out? Right now, by this report, I'm on a blighted property. My old washer is in my driveway since Sunday afternoon, its going to the dump this sat. because I'm at work and cant go to the dump till then.
Craig Zac February 14, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Response second half: I have 4 sheets of plywood, 4 or 5 4x4 posts and a rain barrel leaning against the side of my garage, behind my shed I have my ramps for my truck, a pair of wooden saw horses, two lengths of gutter and a down spout, three maple wood slabs I'm drying out for to use as a table top. Also have 5 rolls of wire fence hanging off the back of the shed on hooks. Its neat, not just thrown down but who's to say some Blight control officer with a bug in his butt isn't gonna come tell me to remove it all or else ill get a fine? Like anything else, sometimes laws made with the best intentions are abused and twisted for the worst intentions. If there were clear cut "Rules" or something where you can say definitely without a doubt is a blight, then OK. But if its open to interpretation by the individual enforcers then it could get ugly. I'm all for cleaning up these places with the three cars on blocks, old car parts, 3 foot tall grass, broken houses that are falling down, to be considered blighted, but really, who's to say what is or isn't a blight issue when its not glaringly obvious?
zoar's monster February 14, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I'm gratified by the results of last night's audience of citizens. Now maybe we can focus on the real blight in town. I've posted 2 photos of the Bridgeport power plant, identical, though with smaller stacks, to the one proposed for Oxford. And then 2 photos of an "upscale development" cum sand and gravel operation. Those who trumpet their concern for preserving Oxford's "rural character" please take note.
Will Wilkin February 14, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Such a relief to see this being tabled! I would have added my voice to those opposing the ordinance at last night's meeting but instead took my son to a concert --he's an aspiring young composer. But a lot of good can still come out of the blight discussion. For one thing, my impression of Mr. Temple grows more positive as I see his sensitivity to the concerns of residents. Sensitive to blight complaints/conditions but also to property owners' concerns about government intrusion into housekeeping on private property. Also the formation of a volunteer crew to assist those who need it: now that's a great idea! It will not only clean up certain messes but more importantly build a spirit of community and neighborly assistance that harkens back to Ye Olde Days of Rural America. This is something that will enhance our quality of life in a way that property values could never measure. Note to Paul Singley: Please post the contact info for people wishing to join the volunteer clean-up-assistance crew.
Paul Singley February 14, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Yeah who is that new guy in the front row?
Connie February 14, 2012 at 02:55 PM
After attending the meeting last night I see a glimer of hope for our town. It was a moment of cohesiveness that has been absent in town for a while. Looking forward to the volunteer commitee and working with the best people Oxford has to offer!
Frank February 14, 2012 at 03:23 PM
One mans trash is another mans treasure. I can respect that.
Rose February 14, 2012 at 03:25 PM
It is tough to answer questions that begin with "why," and be really accurate. Oxford simply is different than the surrounding towns. I once heard a former state employee, who served all 169 towns in Connecticut at one time or another, lament that it was like serving 169 different countries, because they were each so unique. From what I read, 60 out of 169 have blight ordinances. That's just over 35%. When looking for any data on effectiveness and effects of such ordinances, I did not find any published online. A question I have is how we balance respect for each other's ways of living with respect for each other's aesthetic sensibilities. That second term may sound sarcastic but I don't mean it that way. I just cannot think of a better term. Some of us find 3 inch tall perfectly green, weedless lawns offensive. And that may be because such lawns are often treated with substances that poison the soil and water. Or perhaps we feel that there need to be more wildflowers (some call them weeds) to support the struggling bee population, that pollinates perhaps 60% of our food supply. Then, some of us get very uncomfortable when we see mulch piles, fearing that they are harboring some unknown but possibly malicious bugs. Some may prefer the aroma of petroleum to the aroma of manure, and vice versa. So far, Oxford has not come up with a definition of blight that we all agree on, much less a process we feel is fair that respects and protects the rights of all citizens.
Sue Martovich February 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Regarding the blight issue, I do agree with imposing on our rights as citizens.We have a big yard and our stuff is out of sight and/or neatly piled somewhere. What once was a landscaped yard with veg/flower gardens, and shrubbery (previous owners) next door is now a home that is stuffed with too many sheds, storage tents, piles of concrete and asphalt, wetlands being dug up and doing God knows what with, and a number of unregistered/inoperatable vehicles. Not to mention we have had several incidents with their dog coming onto our property, at one point aggressively stalking my daughter. There is a fence on two sides of the properties that borders our yard, one at our expense (we installed quite sometime ago) and the other recently added along the driveway, they purchased. I will give them credit for putting up the fence. I don't think they wanted the risk of another incident with our daughter and their dog. I have gardens along my fence that I have had for many years. My concern is the vehicles (oil leaks) along with anything else that is metal/rusting laying up against the other side. How do I know this is not coming into the soil and slowly making it;s way to the garden areas. At one point he was dumping dog feces that was getting under the fence and showing up in my garden. Everyone has stuff in their yard. Just like closets. the idea is to look at this from a moral perspective and anything in neighbor's view, keep it neat and respect established zoning regulations.
Dave February 14, 2012 at 03:36 PM
After reading some of theses comments here and being at the meeting last night, it appears there may still be hope for Oxford. Mr. Temple is bringing Oxford together to solve some of these problems and asking for volunteers willing to help. Let's hope that when the weather improves in the spring people that need the help will ask for it and the people that said they would will give it. Way to go George. My only doubt is that the hoarders and servery blighted properties will remain untouched until they are forced to act by the town.
Frank February 14, 2012 at 05:55 PM
A glimmer of hope. Im sorry but that's more offensive than blight.
Someone February 14, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Question, do large stuffed animals strewn across one's yard & napping on one's fence constitute blight? I've often wondered what is wrong with the family living on the corner of 67 & hogs back.
Paul Singley February 14, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Please note that we've posted a much more in-depth follow up to last night's meeting as well. It can be found here and it includes a video of a dynamic speaker http://oxford-ct.patch.com/articles/residents-concerned-about-gov-t-interference-block-blight-law
Pinch Hitter February 15, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I agree completeley. They are a distraction, look disgusting, and I can only image the type of people who live there. As far as the blight ordinance is concerned, I would be against it too if my property was a disgrace, but it is not, so I am all for it! People should have consideration for their neighbors and the town, even if it is their personal property. Again, if the outside is a mess, I can only imagine what it is like inside the house, as well as the type of people they are that would cause such a mess!
John M. Joy February 15, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Well, Pinch, were I you, I'd be more concerned about paying those delinquent taxes you owe! 8^)
Craig Zac February 15, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Personally I dont care much about the stuffed animals... maybe they think its funny or quaint? I dont know, I try not to worry about it. What I think this law would be for more or less is the folks with houses that you drive by and think, "Does anyone live there?" or the ones that have so much junk piled up you can hardly see the house, or alot of those old, abanoned buildings along 67.. i mean, if it will be used to tell a farmer to remove the old broken down tractor that is way out in his field or tear down his old barn that is well off the road then that bothers me.. Probably just for personal reasons (i like the old farm look with the old machienery in the field and the dillapitated old buildings hear or there...) as long as the public is safe it shouldnt be a concern.. unless of course its right up there on the street or like a house with piles of debris on the front lawn. (i think its called peter road, its off Bullet hill road and comes out in southbury alongside Senior Ponchos Mexican Resturaunt... there is a house on the right just before going under rte 84 that is so strewn with junk.. i mean crazy big junk, like some construction company tore down a building and dumped it all there..lol it is amazing threy havent been told to clean it up yet..
John M. Joy February 15, 2012 at 01:44 PM
...and it just goes to demonstrate the sort of horse hockey it could degenerate into: carping about somebody's decorations.
Rich Gee February 15, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Everyone's comments have been powerful and spot on - let me simplify my position: 1. Sometimes your yard needs a cleanup. When I grew up, everyone on my street had a 'spring cleanup' - getting rid of errant junk, branches, raking here and there - overall making their yards clean and presentable - and we were in a lower, middle-class neighborhood. 2. If you have a few unregistered cars, a trailer, car parts, etc. around the yard - it's not hard to store them in your backyard and possibly fence them in. Oxford residents are not unreasonable, we just need to be considerate of our neighbors. 3. Clean yards bring up property values. If you're trying to sell your house, a junk yard across the street will not add to the value of the neighborhood. 4. Clean yards are safe. Less rodent infestation, less impact from leaking engines/cars, and less apt to become a bigger problem. One of my neighbors had a massive car fire directly across the street from my house - it could have hit the trees and caused major damage (if not for the Oxford FD). But I do understand we don't want the finger of government looking into our homes and property - but could there be a happy medium between the too? Finally, I've lived in Oxford for over 20 years, we know many clean farms who run a tight ship and the few messy farms who tend to leave everything everywhere. It's just common sense. If they can clean up their act - so can we.
Craig Zac February 15, 2012 at 02:48 PM
it would also be nice if the towns dump took more trash (different kinds) than it does now, and you were allowed more than one trip per day (seeing how its only open saturdays and one day in the week while most of us are at work) If you have alot of junk to toss out, youd have to either take two weeks or have a friend take you in his truck so you can make two trips on the sly. Speaking of, what if you dont own a truck? then what? id also like to point out that there should also be a place to take brush and yard waste, not everyone owns a chipper or has a big enough property to dump that stuff, which may then be considered "Blight" by the town. What to do, what to do? When I lived in Wallingford they had a nice recycle place, they took everything, and there was a huge spot to dump yard waste. Then in the spring, they would sell compost by the yard and actually put a few yards out for free, of course you could only take a trash can or two full but it was nice.. And dropping off stuff there was free. Plus, they ground up all the old Christmas trees and turned it into mulch which was free, as much as you wanted as long as you loaded it yourself. Im sure there MUST be a town owned piece of land where we can do this. Just a thought.
Bonnie February 15, 2012 at 08:15 PM
I know that MOST of you won't like my OPINION but I am entitled to my own OPINION. If you want to live to a home that your yard and porches look like the city dump then you should fence in your yard so those of us that take pride in our property don't have to look at it. There are 2 homes (almost across the street from one another) on Chestnut Tree Hill Rd that have rusted vehicles, trash (literally), broken down farm equipment (these are NOT farms), numerous rusted grills and a TON OR TWO of other crap. I'm sure even if the town offered a junk pick up day they wouldn't even put anything out, they'd go around collecting junk. Nothing personal against Hoarders but there is help out there that people can get. Heck, I'll help them transport trash to the dump!
Rich Gee February 15, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Bonnie - BRAVO! I empathize with your plight.
Craig Zac February 15, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Your wrong, think most will agree with you...lol seriously, if theres someone near you who have a load of junk on thier lawns, it will make your property less desireable should you try to sell it, the same as if you lived across the street from a sewer plant that stunk like, well, you know what im saying...lol And also, I think that alot of these people ARE hoarders.. they wont want to give up their good junk..lol I know, I have a few family members who are like this...
Ashleigh February 15, 2012 at 09:23 PM
There are a TON of towns who do Christmas tree pickup a week or 2 after Christmas for this purpose. I think this year, Oxford had a place where you could bring your tree to be chipped. Of course, it was probably on a Thursday morning from 10:38-11:12 when absolutely nobody was available to participate...

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