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REMINDER: Meeting Tonight on Proposed Oxford Blight Ordinance [POLL]

Board of Selectmen sends proposal to a public hearing, town meeting.

Dozens of people are expected to attend a public hearing on a proposed blight ordinance tonight at .

Town officials want to give residents an opportunity to speak about the proposed ordinance and from there, the issue will be brought to a vote of the townspeople at a Town Meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 27, also at Town Hall.

The proposed ordinance says warnings may be given but once fines are imposed, property owners would be on the hook for $100 a day for each blight violation, including, but not limited to:

  • Rodent harborage and/or infestation;
  • Garbage, trash or unused building materials improperly stored in dumpsters or accumulated on the premises; unauthorized outside storage or accumulation of junk, campers, trash, rubbish, boxes, paper, plastic or refuse of any kind;
  • The parking of more than one unregistered car, boats, motorcycles or inoperable machinery on the public right of way;
  • Missing, broken or boarded up windows or doors; collapsing or deteriorating exterior walls, roofs, stairs, porches, handrails, railings, basement hatchways, chimneys, flues or floors;
  • Exterior walls containing holes or loose missing or rotting materials;
  • Unrepaired fire or water damage;
  • Overgrown brush, shrubs and weeds.

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We want to know what you think about the proposed ordinance. Please answer our poll below:

Will Wilkin February 10, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Hi Beth, you complain above in your posts: "My blogs pertain to a neighbor who dumped their garbage in our yard for over 30 yrs" and : "Before my neighbors house foreclosed, they constantly threw their trash over our fence.." Whatever the source of the trash, it seems a blight law would only target YOU as the property-owner on which that trash lay. I would rather expect you to campaign for a law against throwing trash over the fence, which seems quite a different thing, and surely must already be considered illegal dumping, wouldn't it? Judging by the abandoned commercial property across from the Global gas station, such laws are not cleaning up the mess. Doesn't it bother you that the proposed blight law seems to define any meadow on a property with a building as "blight?" Doesn't it bother you that census workers and drone surveillance will snoop through virtually every inch of private property to ascertain the manner of housekeeping? Oh and what about the squirrels on my lot that may qualify as rodent infestation and leave me liable to fines and ultimately foreclosure? Not the law's "intent?" Then why is it so carelessly drafted --seems to be imported from far away from rural Oxford. Most long-term effects of a law ARE unintended.... As I've said above, I too have complaints about my neighbors' properties but I don't think weakening property rights and expanding govt control of our homes is an appropriate response.
Will Wilkin February 10, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Also I have a few mice in my house from time to time...there's gotta be a better mousetrap! Should I worry they will take my home if I can't pay the daily fines or eliminate the infestation? WHO DECIDES?
John M. Joy February 10, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Wow - looking back at some of the comments (including and especially mine), it's shocking how nasty they are. That's probably what concerns me most. The ordinance is only a proposal (and a first draft at that), and already we're biting off one another's heads. If it passes, I can't help but think it will only serve to further divide neighbors against neighbors. This is certainly not in the spirit of "Oxford Together" the current administration rode into office. What with the fragile state of the economy, strife in the Middle East, ..., the last thing we need as a town is more division. My apologies to Beth for being uncivil.
Beth February 10, 2012 at 10:02 PM
will my first comment on this blog I said, 'trash" not garbage, my later comment said "garbage." this was the wrong word to use since garbage implies left over scraps of food, etc..which as we all know brings the rats...
Beth February 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM
apology accepted John...
Janis Hardy February 11, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Perhaps a group of us should get together and independently re-write this PROPOSED ordinance in a more Oxford-resident-friendly manner, not something lifted from another Town. While I agree that one doesn't always have to reinvent the wheel, and lifting ideas found in other communities' ordinances is a great start, in the end, an ordinance needs to be tailored for OXFORD, its environmental surrounds, its citizens and their views toward their own personal property. As a member of nearly all the charter revision commissions, I believe even I could do a good job with a re-write! I know the zoning enforcement officer can cite property owners for excessive accumulations of unsightly 'stuff', but in the end, I suspect the complaints would eventually wind up in the courts. What is the threat of a fine going to do? If a property owner wouldn't clean up their property in the first place (for whatever reason) what is the threat of monetary penalties going to accomplish if they don't have the money? Do we, as taxpayers want to start owning these blighted properties and then have to absorb the cost of cleaning them up? If this is passed, any fines collected should go into a separate fund that could be used to help those property owners who may ask for help with clean up that do not have the resources to do it on their own. And then there could be the group of volunteers willing to help when necessary... This is Oxford, folks, and we need to keep that in mind when we act....
Will Wilkin February 11, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I suggest that before one line of new law is drafted that a review be made to collect all the existing statutes, ordinances and regulations regarding blight in Oxford. What rules are already on the books regarding building maintenance, property use and sanitary conditions? Countless times in this discussion it has been suggested that the Health District, Zoning and perhaps other commissions already have existing rules. WHAT ARE THEY? ARE THEY ENOUGH? There has been no concrete discussion of existing rules, so how can we even know that something else might be needed? Even if the Town Meeting determines we do need a blight law, this background research would set the groundwork for writing one that doesn't contradict or ambiguate existing rules. And yes I think it is obvious that "ambiguate" is a legitimate new word that I draft for our language only after determining that existing words didn't quite cover it.
Will Wilkin February 11, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Correction: "ambiguate" already IS a word. But I wonder if the new blight law also already substantially exists if only its components were dusted off by the various bodies responsible for enforcing them?
Connie February 11, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Janis- I love your thought on this!!
Janis Hardy February 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Agreed! I too would like to see all other existing state laws and local rgulations regarding blight, especially from the Health District. As I said, I know there is something in the zoning regs, but I don't remember how comprehensive it is. I have finally had the time to read the proposed ordinance and while some parts of it may be OK, it is so full of extreme governmental over-reach that I cannot believe that a Republican (?) administration is proposing this! There is a lot that needs to be toned down or completely removed, and I found many typos that significantly alter the probable intent of several of the sections. Another proofreader is needed! I also got the sense that someone just went to other ordinances and pulled out whatever they thought sounded good and inserted it without any attention to continuity, since there is a great deal of duplication. I also felt that anytime I have to read something with a dictionary at hand, it needs to be more understandable by the average citizen. Why use an obscure word like putrescible, then have to define putrescible, when 'rotting' would have done the job in the first place? At least everybody knows what rotting means, and a great deal of space and reading time could be eliminated. Just as an example...
Janis Hardy February 13, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I totally agree here, Will, and if there is existing law, then the problem is with enforcement. Big question: Why is the enforcement of existing provisions not being done effectively? I am not sure a blight ordinance is going to fix the problem if there are existing laws and regulations that already are not being enforced. We definitely need to get to the root of the problem before we pile on more layers of government that can't be enforced to everyone's "personal" satisfaction!
Robert Williams February 13, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I don't understand why we are going to town discussion on this ordinance when it is obvious this document is nowhere near complete, or accurate. We are suppose to have a vote on this on the 27th of February?!?
Robert Williams February 13, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Maybe its not an issue of enforcement but rather one of awareness. Maybe the general public is not aware of these existing regulations...I know I am not. Maybe rather then enacting a new ordiance, perhaps we author a how-to guide. Explain the existing regs and how a homeowner would go about filing a complaint and working the existing process.
Janis Hardy February 13, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Totally agree, Bob! If laws/regs exist, we should make property owners aware of that. My biggest concern was for "Beth" and others like her who seem to have had a long-term issue with a blighted property, claimed to have gone to the health and other departments and still got no satisfaction. WHY???? And how is another layer of perhaps unenforceable law going to fix that? Why wasn't this blight addressed in a reasonable manner? Getting the answer to that question would put us on the path to an ordinance that would have measurable impact and effect.
John M. Joy February 13, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Janis: you're going to be there tonight, I hope?
Janis Hardy February 13, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Since I've put my 25 cents in (inflation!) I guess I'll have to go! I am in the process of downloading the applicable state laws now so I have some frame of reference. There is lots of overlap between fire marshal, zoning and health departments so I am concerned with the possibility of lack of appropriate coordination and the hierarchy of those others involved. I am wondering if this shouldn't be an additional zoning regulation. Then we would have the zoning commission (7 members, elected, not 3, appointed) and a ZEO already in place for enforcement.) Then the process could be to hand any reviewed complaints to the hearing officer once the appropriate citations are issued. I know the ZEO used to report monthly on the status of complaints made to the zoning department regarding these kinds of things...
Connie February 13, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I thought this was interesting as well- none of these "issues" are addressed in the Oxford Proposal. http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Changes-proposed-for-Seymour-s-blight-ordinance-1262.php
Janis Hardy February 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Great find, Connie! I printed this article to bring tonight since I was concerned about some of these things myself. This supposedly happened in 2009. I wonder if the 'fixes' worked? Sometimes when you do something to address a problem, the 'fix' can often be worse than what already existed.... I wonder who wrote the original Seymour blight ordinance that didn't work? GT was Town Counsel at the time.... I am finding so many errors in this proposed ordinance that I hope nobody allows this to go to a Town Meeting until it is completely corrected. Some sections are unclear or contradictory so I have lots of questions, too....
zoar's monster February 13, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Jay Halpern here, Jackson Cove Rd (I think everybody knows Zoar's Monster by now, but I don't cling to anonymity). For a few seasons I took great pleasure in "meadowizing" my lawn: the "weeds", which are really beautiful wildflowers rarely seen on private property, flourished and enhanced the beauty of my land. By keeping the "meadow," rainwater was retained and everything I planted (trees, bushes) thrived. I also enjoyed the finest display of fireflies every summer that I'd seen in my 30+ years here in Oxford. When my vegetable garden was shaded out by my neighbor's tall pines - of which I have a few of my own and which I find most beautiful - I dealt with the shade by hiding little toys in my "Magic Garden" for neighborhood kids to freely enter and take home, the only proviso being that they needed to bring something back and hide it for other kids to find. I even took steps because of my concern that ticks may thrive like my wildflowers in my "meadow," to volunteer (with my wife) as guinea pigs in a SmithKlineBeecham research project at Yale to test an anti- Lyme vaccine (it turned out, however, that regular antibiotics worked better). So my meadow and my scattered toys would become "blight" if any person of ill-will (politicians included) decided to break my stones. Meanwhile, there's a sand/gravel operation on 34 by the dam that's supposed to have been upscale housing for a decade: told you so. There's a poisonous power plant still waiting to be built. Blight?
zoar's monster February 13, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Just to conclude:" And given that ANYONE can submit a complaint against anyone else, it presents an opportunity for axe-grinding, score-settling, and political vendettas." John, as usual, makes an excellent point. (I'll regret your loss here in Oxford, John.) Oxford has a post-Stakum history of selective enforcement of laws, possibly based on white envelope distribution. I suggest, Beth et al, that your suffering for decades comes more from not offering the white envelope while others did. You have just cause to complain about lack of enforcement of regulations; I still can't get Springer to stop collecting trash across from my house at 4am with his loud trucks, although all appropriate officials have been called, yet none has been offered a white envelope. I suggest this "ordinance" proposal, written with holes in it big enough to haul gravel-crushers through, will victimize residents who hold their personal space and personal freedom as sacred as they hold clean air and water. While it's common knowledge how deeply I hold A. Palmer and G. Temple in contempt, here's a story no one knows: I borrowed a truck from a friend to haul some trash to the dump. The truck was registered in Vermont. I stopped at a gas station to fill it up in return for my usage, and there was Augie, running for office. The next day I received a threatening letter demanding that I pay to register my truck or else. I called Town Hall and the matter died. No W E. Political vendettas? Not much.
Penny February 17, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Okay I have a few drive bys for the anti blight folks. Punkup rd right off route 34.....check out some of those yards and houses. My favorite would be Park rd where one couple actually has a sailboat in there driveway that is covered over now with brush. They actually destroyed that tarp covered,falling down, house a few years back (its still standing but not lived in) and have now taken over (i assume) is a relatives house next door. That house too is becoming a junk pit. Apparently they like to collect crap all the the time and store it in there yard. Including woodpiles. Also need to add in at the stop sign down from that house on park and manitook rd There is a huge pile of garbage just sitting in the yard...not looking very attractive and sanitary. Um...route 67.....few houses there tat coukd use dumpster. These are the homes that need to be fined. There is no reason for a property to look that way. We are talking about something worth $100,000 or more. It's real estate....largest investment most people ever make. Why trash it and ruin it and the town you live in. I am all for keeping Oxford the way it is....the old school, sweet country, town it has always been. It doesn't have to be dirty with garbage like the"big city' look people speak of. I grew up in a small horse town...I do not live in a McMansion or an upscale neighborhood.....I just like to see the beauty of Oxford with out the trash in the way.
Beth February 17, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Penny, this is exactly the reason, we need a blight law...I have a foreclosure next to me with a yard full of trash, 2 windows boarded up, roof that is leaking, appliances trashed in the back yard with two abandoned unregistered cars that thankfully the bank took away.....the bank had someone come to clean it up and then they stopped for some reason??? I came from a small city over 30 yrs ago and never saw the trash that I see here in this town...
Robert Williams February 17, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Good Evening, Your actions and attitude is exactly the reason why I opposed this ordinance as much as I do. Ifnthis ordinance had gone any further, this is the exact kind of behaivor we would have to deal with. Thankfully this issue has been tabled indefinitely and if we are lucky will be dead a long time.
Penny February 17, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Actions and attitude? Sorry if I offended you or if one of these is your home. I was asked to name specifcs of the area of live in or what areas of the town I am talking about. I was asked to be more specific...so there it is. Houses with garbage....in garbage bags and trash in there yards. No action...no attitude...just facts. Garbage belongs in the dump..not as lawn ornaments. Not sure what you have against a clean environment.
Robert Williams February 17, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Good Evening, You are entitled to your opinion and I respect that, we just differ on how much government should intrude in our lives. To be clear I am not offended by your opinion on neatness or position on blight. And for the record I keep a very clean and tidy house and yard and I do appreciate neatness and cleanliness. What I object too and to answer your question about actions is…neighbors driving around town, finding houses they believe are not kept up to a certain standard and then publishing those thoughts on a public forum and providing enough detail that anyone can identify the properties in question; I find that to be a violation of privacy and property rights. Even though you do not provide the exact address of the properties you mention, you provide clear enough descriptions that anyone can now, and may, drive by these premises and harass what are most likely law abiding citizens. We have no blight law in this town, yet we have people calling their neighbors to the mat on Patch. Its one thing to complain in private to town hall, its another to do what you just did. Regards
Beth February 17, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Robert, you always speak of extreme cases in all of your blogs, constantly talking about government intervention, all we want is the neighborhood cleaned up., what do you have to hide???..and to quote you in the above blog...no one is going to "harass what are most likely law abiding citizens." It isn't law abiding, as Penny noted in her drivebys to trash the neighborhood. Maybe if you lived next to trash, you would feel differently...You are part of the reason why there isn't a blight law in Oxford, YET!
Connie February 17, 2012 at 03:25 AM
So Beth and Penny- are your names on the list of volunteers to help people try to clean up THEIR properties from the blight meeting?
Beth February 17, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Connie, For 33 yrs my husband and I have maintained our own property. His health isn't good and he also had back problems for all the years we have lived here..However, we still keep the yard free of trash... I had two knee replacements back in 2003 and still had to constantly pick up trash along my property line for 33 yrs filling several bags full of trash thrown over our fence...thus the reason we put it up..Our neighbors broke it several times and wondered why we had it there...they were clueless...This is the reason we need a blight law...Let the town deal with the problem..
Penny February 20, 2012 at 03:29 AM
HI again Robert, just to clarify I dont drive around looking for houses that are not kept up. These are house that are driven by daily by many cars and the filth can be seen by all. By people who live in this town to see it and out of town people to see as well. There have been streets named in this blog by others and anyone can drive down and pick out what homes they are talking about. I am not the only one. However I would also like to note that one of the homes I mentioned....that was at a stop sign interesection and had garbage in the yard...is actually cleaned up and gone. I dont believe it was a result of this blog but perhaps the timing was right for the homeowners to clean it up. As far as volunteering to help folks clean up there yards (Connie) I would LOVE to be on that committee. I have a pick up truck in my possesion and would be more than happy to help these people clean up there yards and take things to the dump. If it will make me feel pround of my town when family comes to visit, I am on board.
Janis Hardy February 20, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Penny, contact the First Selectman's administrative assistant. She will add your name and contact info to the list! Several of us signed up at the public hearing last week, but I know a pick-up can always be helpful!

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