Amendment to Greenwich Nuisance Ordinance Would Add Muscle in Abating Blighted Properties

At Thursday’s Board of Selectman, town administrator Ben Branyan presented an amendment to the town’s Nuisance Ordinance for a “first read.”

First Selectman Fred Camillo has made quality of life issues a priority. Two weeks ago he did a walking tour of the waterfront along South Water Street with P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban and P&Z director Katie DeLuca where there are three blighted buildings, as well as graffiti in a pocket park.

“The town is taking a two-prong approach to address the qualities of life issues related to the condition of private and public property,” Branyan said. “It involves both a policy change, as well as a process change.”

Branyan said the proposed amendment expands the definition of Nuisance because at present it only allows the Town to force property owners to board up windows or doors, and some properties have been boarded up for years.

“We get concerns from residents about vacant buildings boarded up,” he said. “There’s nothing in the building code that allows us to do enforcement.”

Proposed changes to the definition of nuisance in the town’s Nuisance Ordinance in chapter 6C-2.h Definitions
Structure that is wide open on So Water Street along the Byram River was once a yacht brokerage. June 26, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager

He noted that in the town charter, in Chapter 6C, Nuisance, says, “The Town of Greenwich has a history and reputation for well-kept properties, and the property values and the general welfare of the town is founded, in part, upon the appearance and maintenance of private and public properties.”

Branyan said a targeted change in the definition of “nuisance” would have the greatest chance of adoption by the RTM.

The original ordinance was enacted in 1991 after much debate in the RTM about individual property rights.

Branyan said the proposed text has been reviewed by the town attorney’s office and Town departments.

In addition to the amended ordinance, Branyan proposed the creation of a standing working group he would lead. The group would take a coordinated approach to identifying and addressing nuisance properties.

It would include representatives from departments including Human Services, Zoning, Health, Building, Fire Marshal and Police.

File photo: Property on William Street
Property on William Street. File photo

First Selectman Camillo said nuisance properties are not only in Byram, but also on the east side of town, in Glenville and in the northwest corner.

“The residents have been crying out for this for a long time,” he said, adding that some situations have carried on for many, many years.

“We are respectful and mindful of the property rights issues,” he added. “This is not just a local issue unique to these neighborhoods. Some people have applied for tax abatements and they have been granted.”

“We’re trying to do something with compassion, and to help people who may have fallen on hard times,” he said. “Certainly, there’s got to be a limit. Otherwise people are just held hostage.”

Boarded up property on Mead Ave in Byram was demolished after decades of complaints. File photo
Residents complained about a property on Mead Ave in Byram for decades before it was torn down. File photo

Planning & Zoning director Katie DeLuca praised the proposal and Branyan “getting all the players to the table.”

“The current language is extremely limited as it relates to the issue we’re trying to solve with blight,” DeLuca said, noting that the committee approach would mean the zoning inspectors won’t be charged solely with enforcement.

She pointed out there are fire codes, building codes, and health codes that zoning inspectors have neither the power nor the knowledge to enforce.

“I think it’s a significant reduction in liability to the Town as a whole,” she added. “These are never one-track issues. We have found these are multi department issues.”

If the Selectmen vote to approve the amendment at their second read, scheduled for July 22, the proposal next goes to the RTM, which requires two reads: One on Sept 21 and the second one on Oct 26.

See also:

First Selectman to Target Blighted Properties in Byram

June 28, 2020

After Decades of Complaints, Blighted Byram House is Razed

November 19, 2019