[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Stratford as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 8-11-2008 by Ord. No. 08-04; amended in its entirety 10-12-2010 by Ord. No. 10-26]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was reconsidered and approved by the Town Council 9-8-2008. Ordinance No. 08-04 also superseded former Ch. 161, Property Maintenance, adopted 10-13-1992, as amended.
It is found and declared that there exists within the Town of Stratford a number of real properties which contain vacant or occupied blighted buildings, and/or properties and/or occupied vacant parcels that are poorly maintained, and that the existence of such poorly maintained properties and/or vacant or occupied parcels, and/or vacant and/or occupied blighted buildings contributes to the decline of neighborhoods. It is further found that the existence of poorly maintained properties and/or vacant or occupied parcels, vacant or occupied blighted buildings adversely affects the economic well-being of the Town and is inimical to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the Town. It is further found that many of the vacant or occupied blighted buildings can be rehabilitated, reconstructed or reused so as to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing and ancillary commercial facilities, and that such rehabilitation, reconstruction and reuse would eliminate, remedy and prevent the adverse conditions described. It is further found that the abatement of the blight of poorly maintained properties and/or vacant or occupied parcels is a benefit to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the Town.
Therefore, this article is adopted pursuant to Sections 7-148(c)(7)(H)(xv), 7-148aa, and 7-148gg of the Connecticut General Statutes and other applicable law.
For the purposes of this article, the following words and terms shall have the meanings respectively ascribed as follows:
- The removal, painting over or other obscuring of graffiti from view as directed by a notice to remove.
- ACCESSORY STRUCTURE
- Any detached improvement not designated as part of the main
residence or structure.[Added 4-14-2014 by Ord. No. 14-06]
- BLIGHTED PREMISES
- Any building or structure, or any portion of a building or
structure that is a separate unit, regardless of whether the same
are vacant or occupied, or any accessory structure or fence, and/or
any vacant parcel of land, in which at least one of the following
conditions exist:[Amended 4-14-2014 by Ord. No. 14-06]
- A. It is determined by the Town that existing conditions pose a serious or immediate danger to the health, safety or welfare of any person.
- B. The property is not being maintained so that it reflects a reasonable level of maintenance in keeping with the standards of the community and not constituting a blighting factor for adjoining property owners, or an element leading to the progressive deterioration of the neighborhood.
- C. The property is becoming dilapidated and is a factor that is materially depreciating property values in the neighborhood.
- D. The following factors may be considered in determining whether a building or any structure on the property is not being maintained: missing, broken or boarded windows or doors; a collapsing or missing wall, roof, floor, stairs, porch, railings, basement hatchways, chimneys, gutters or awnings; siding that is seriously damaged, missing, faded or peeling; fire damages; a foundation that is structurally faulty; or that the outside of the property is not being maintained in accordance with the standards set forth in this chapter. Vacant buildings must be boarded up as required by the Building Code. In addition, for any building that is vacant for more than two months, the plywood used to board up the openings must be painted in a color to match the building.
- E. The exterior and areas exposed to public view of all commercial, industrial and residential properties are not being kept free from deterioration and/or are not in a good state of repair. Maintenance of the outside of the property shall include, without limitation, the following:
- (1) All surfaces shall be maintained free of broken glass, crumbling stone or brick or other conditions reflective of deterioration or inadequate maintenance.
- (2) The property shall be kept litter free. Garbage or trash shall not be improperly stored or accumulated on the premises.
- (3) The maintenance and appearance of the grounds and yards of premises shall be such that they reflect the level of upkeep of surrounding premises and properties. This shall include, but not be limited to, grass that has been allowed to go to seed or grown to a height of more than eight inches, severely overgrown bushes and trees, dead trees, or any vegetation of any nature which encroaches on streets, sidewalks, or any other part of the public domain.
- (4) There shall be no graffiti on any buildings or structures.
- F. The property is a fire hazard as documented by the Fire Department.
- G. The property is attracting illegal activity as documented by the Police Department.
- H. Rat infestations as documented by the Health Department.
- I. Abandoned vehicles and/or abandoned boats on the property.
- J. Storage requirements. All equipment or other materials stored on the property must be free from rust and in good working order. Abandoned appliances, automobile parts, discarded household items and piles of rotten lumber are prohibited from being stored on the property. Equipment and material stored outside shall be stacked and/or arranged in an orderly fashion in a location providing reasonable screening from neighbors and adjoining streets.
- BLIGHT ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- The position as established within the Zoning Department of the Town.
- A building or structure in a state of disrepair or ruin as
a result of age or neglect.[Amended 4-14-2014 by Ord. No. 14-06]
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- The Town Health Director or his/her designee, the Town Housing Code Enforcement Officer or his/her designee, the Blight Enforcement Officer, or any Town employee who has statutory authority to enter onto private property for the purpose of inspecting said property, and is appointed by the Mayor to issue fines for violations of this article.
- The defacing, damaging, or destroying by spraying of paint or marking of ink, dye or other similar substances on public or private buildings, structures, facilities, natural features, and places.
- LEGAL OCCUPANCY
- Occupancy that is legal by virtue of compliance with state building, state fire safety, local zoning and housing codes and all other pertinent codes, which habitation must be substantiated by a bona fide lease agreement, a rent receipt or a utility statement.
- An area of the Town comprised of all premises or parcels of land, any part of which is within a radius of 800 feet of any part of another parcel or lot within the Town.
- Any space within a building that is or can be rented by or to a single person, household or entity for his/her or its sole use, and is intended to be a distinct space.
- A period of 60 days or longer during which a building or a portion thereof is not legally occupied.
- VACANT PARCEL
- A parcel of land with no structures thereon.
Any owner of real property in the Town shall not cause or allow blighted premises, as defined in this article, to be created, nor shall any owner allow the continued existence of such blighted premises.
[Added 2-13-2018 by Ord. No. 18-02]
The position as established within the Town, Blight Enforcement Officer, shall serve as assigned by the Mayor.
The Blight Enforcement Officer shall receive complaints of properties alleged to constitute blighted premises and shall inspect same. The Blight Enforcement Officer may cause regular inspections of certain of the blighted premises to be referred to an Enforcement Officer for the purpose of documenting continuous blight and, additionally, may cause to be imposed a penalty of not more than $100 per violation for each day that a blighted premises, as defined in this article, or part thereof, is in violation of this article. Each day a blighted premises, as defined in this article, or part thereof, is in violation of this article shall constitute a separate offense. The Blight Enforcement Officer shall cause the imposition of said penalty by notifying the owner as provided below and forwarding a copy of such notice to the Citation Clerk.
The Town may authorize designated agents, including, without limitation, members of the Public Works Department, to enter the blighted premises during reasonable hours for the purpose of remediating the blighted conditions, provided that such agent(s) shall not enter any dwelling house or other structure so existing on a blighted premises. The Town shall then assess the cost for such remediation upon the owner or operator of the blighted premises.
The written notice of citation shall include:
A description of the condition(s) that cause the premises to be considered a blighted premises.
A statement of a definite number of days from the date of the notice of citation by which the condition(s) causing the premises to be considered a blighted premises must be remediated.
A statement of the penalties for noncompliance, as set forth in this article.
At any time within 12 months from the expiration of the final period for the uncontested payment of any fines, penalties, costs or fees for any citation issued under this article for an alleged violation thereof, notice shall be sent to the person cited. Such notice shall inform the person cited:
Of the allegations against him and the amount of the fines, penalties, costs or fees due;
That he may contest his liability before a Citation Hearing Officer by delivering, in person or by mail, written notice within 10 days of the date thereof, to the Citation Clerk in care of the Town Attorney's office at Town Hall;
That if he does not demand such a hearing, an assessment and judgment shall be entered against him; and
That such judgment may issue without further notice.
If the person who is sent notice pursuant to Subsection B of this section wishes to admit liability for any alleged violation, he may, without requesting a hearing, pay the full amount of the fines, penalties, costs or fees admitted to in person or by mail to the Citation Clerk. Such payment shall be inadmissible in any proceeding, civil or criminal, to establish the conduct of such person or other person making the payment. Any person who does not deliver or mail written demand for a hearing within 10 days of the date of the first notice provided for in Subsection B of this section shall be deemed to have admitted liability, and the Citation Clerk shall certify such person's failure to respond to the Citation Hearing Officer. The Citation Hearing Officer shall thereupon enter and assess the fines, penalties, costs or fees provided for by the applicable ordinances and shall follow the procedures set forth in Connecticut General Statutes § 7-152c(f).
Any person who requests a hearing shall be given written notice of the date, time and place for the hearing. Such hearing shall be held not less than 15 days nor more than 30 days from the date of the mailing of notice, provided the Citation Hearing Officer shall grant upon good cause shown any reasonable request by any interested party for postponement or continuance. An original or certified copy of the notice of citation and any subsequent notices issued by the Enforcement Officer shall be filed and retained by the Town, and shall be deemed to be a business record within the scope of Section 52-180 and evidence of the facts contained therein. The presence of the Enforcement Officer shall be required at the hearing if such person so requests. A person wishing to contest his liability shall appear at the hearing and may present evidence in his behalf. The Town Attorney or an Assistant Town Attorney shall represent the Town of Stratford at the citation hearing. If such person fails to appear, the Citation Hearing Officer may enter an assessment by default against him upon a finding of proper notice and liability under the applicable statutes or ordinances. The Citation Hearing Officer may accept from such person copies of police reports, investigatory and citation reports, and other official documents by mail and may determine thereby that the appearance of such person is unnecessary. The Citation Hearing Officer shall conduct the hearing in the order and form and with such methods of proof as he deems fair and appropriate. The rules regarding the admissibility of evidence shall not be strictly applied, but all testimony shall be given under oath or affirmation. The Citation Hearing Officer shall announce his decision at the end of the hearing. If he determines that the person is not liable, he shall dismiss the matter and enter his determination in writing accordingly. If he determines that the person is liable for the violation, he shall forthwith enter and assess the fines, penalties, costs or fees against such person as provided by this article.
Any unpaid fine imposed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter regulating blight shall constitute a lien upon the real estate against which the fine was imposed from the date of such fine. Each such lien may be continued, recorded and released in the manner provided by the Connecticut General Statutes for continuing, recording and releasing property tax liens. Each such lien shall take precedence over all other liens filed after the effective date of this article and encumbrances, except taxes, and may be enforced in the same manner as property tax liens.
If such assessment is not paid on the date of its entry, the Citation Hearing Officer shall send by first class mail a notice of the assessment to the person found liable and shall file, not less than 30 days nor more than 12 months after such mailing, a certified copy of the notice of assessment with the Clerk of a Superior Court facility designated by the Chief Court Administrator together with an entry fee of $8. The certified copy of the notice of assessment shall constitute a record of assessment. Within such twelve-month period, assessments against the same person may be accrued and filed as one record of assessment. The Clerk of the Superior Court shall enter judgment, in the amount of such record of assessment and court costs of $8, against such person in favor of the Town. Notwithstanding any provision of the General Statutes, the Citation Hearing Officer's assessment, when so entered as a judgment, shall have the effect of a civil money judgment and a levy of execution on such judgment may issue without further notice to such person.
A person against whom an assessment has been entered pursuant to this section is entitled to judicial review by way of appeal. An appeal shall be instituted within 30 days of the mailing of notice of such assessment by filing a petition to reopen assessment, together with an entry fee in an amount equal to the entry fee for a small claims case pursuant to § 52-259, at a Superior Court facility designated by the Chief Court Administrator, which shall entitle such person to a hearing in accordance with the rules of the judges of the Superior Court.