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.