State drops New London bamboo case

Bamboo shrouds the property of Carlos Carrion on Borodell Place in New London on Sept. 20, 2017.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Bamboo shrouds the property of Carlos Carrion on Borodell Place in New London on Sept. 20, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — State prosecutors have opted not to pursue a criminal case against Carlos Carrion, a New London man whose unruly bamboo patch was targeted by the city as an example of blight.

Carrion’s attorney, Daryl Justin Finizio, said the reason for the so-called nolle, or nolle prosequi, entered in the case is unclear, though the city has notified him that it still may seek some sort of civil case against Carrion.

A nolle means state prosecutors have ended prosecution and the case is automatically dismissed after 13 months. The case, in rare instances, could be reopened during that time.

Carrion was not available to comment on the case.

"Mr. Carrion is a quiet man who lives a private life," Finizio said. "He looks forward to putting this behind him and hopes that he and the city may now reach a swift and amicable resolution to this dispute."

Carrion’s bamboo on the 0.18-acre property at 16 Borodell Place, a dead-end road, became the subject of a blight ordinance violation last year. The city had ordered him to clean up and trim back the towering bamboo canes, which at that time stretched as high as the roadside powerlines.

The city first had pursued civil penalties but later passed the case off to the state for prosecution, something allowed by an ordinance passed in 2015. The city maintained Carrion had ignored the city’s order.

Finizio has argued that the city did not seem to be satisfied that Carrion had taken steps to trim back the bamboo from neighboring properties. In his motion to dismiss, Finizio also argued an abuse of power by city officials who have singled Carrion out for his vocal criticism of the blight ordinance.

As a result, Carrion filed a notice of intent to sue earlier this month and offered to settle the matter for $500, along with a written agreement that Carrion maintain his bamboo grove in full compliance with all relevant state and local laws.

"As City taxpayers, both my client and I hope that we can reach a swift settlement with the City so as to avoid incurring further expenditures of public funds needlessly on this matter," Finizio said in a statement. "The City of New London doesn't have money to waste, and the city doesn't need any more negative public attention due to this dispute."

Finizio said that the city has indicated it may yet pursue a civil claim against Carrion, though on what grounds is unclear. City attorney Jeffrey Londregan could not be reached for comment. Blight Enforcement Officer Kenyon Haye said the city had not decided on whether to pursue further actions against Carrion. He declined comment on the criminal case and deferred to the decision of the state prosecutor.

Finizio said there was some indication the city would argue that Carrion’s bamboo, which has been growing on the property for decades, is of a running variety. A state law passed in 2013 pertaining to running bamboo requires new planting to be contained with some sort of barrier system, though it applies to bamboo planted after 2013 and seemingly not applicable in this case.

“He has a legal right to that bamboo,” Finizio said. “That was really the concern of my client in this case. He thought from the beginning he was being pressured to do something with his own property he wasn’t legally required to do.”


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