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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    New London could get receivership of blighted buildings with proposed bill

    New London ― For decades the city has struggled to revitalize the downtown area as a number of the buildings have been empty and desolate.

    City and state officials are proponents of House Bill 6892, a proposed bill that could give the city the ability to gain receivership of blighted and abandoned buildings.

    The proposed bill would amend an existing law that allows certain parties in a city with a population of 35,000 or more to file a petition to Superior Court to take possession and undertake rehabilitation of a building. The building would have to be a public nuisance, blighted or unfit for human occupancy or use.

    The new bill seeks to change the population threshold to 15,000. New London’s population is 27,000.

    Senator Martha Marx (D-New London) and State Representatives Anthony Nolan (D-New London) and Christine Conley (D-Groton) are among the co-sponsors of the bill.

    Marx said she often hears people talk about blighted buildings downtown but it is mostly because the owners won’t do anything with them. She said there are 12 vacant buildings downtown and six are condemned, or no longer fit for human habitation.

    “If we ever want to turn the corner and make downtown great, we have to be able to do something,” Marx said.

    She said it was Mayor Michael Passero’s idea to get the threshold changed on the existing law.

    Passero said the city now can fine a property for violating a blight ordinance or put a lien on it until it is sold. He said buildings are being left to rot and the city has no legal avenue to do anything.

    Passero said there are more businesses that would like to open in New London than it has storefronts to offer because some people who own the buildings are not interested in renting or renovating storefronts. He said this bill would allow the city to take action on commercial and residential properties that have been vacant and abandoned.

    “No building should be vacant and abandoned in the city when there is such a need for housing,” he said.

    Both Marx and Passero spoke in favor of the bill to the General Assembly’s Planning and Development committee March 15. The bill originally proposed removing the population threshold cap altogether but State Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-Chaplin) expressed concerns that doing so would negatively impact small rural communities.

    The committee Monday approved sending the bill to the assembly’s floor with the 15,000 threshold.

    Torrington is the only city in the state with pending litigation using the blight law as it exists. The Torrington Development Corporation, a nonprofit, is seeking to gain receivership of the Yankee Peddler Inn.

    The proposed bill would also allow municipalities to enact blight ordinances on both residential and commercial real property, increase fines for blight ordinance violations and more.

    Conley, who sits on the Planning and Development committee, said more than ten blight bills submitted to the committee were joined into the one bill. She said she supports the bill because she thinks it would give Passero another tool to use for dealing with landlords and owners of blighted buildings.

    “Neighbors near blighted buildings have to deal with a lot of issues, from broken windows, animals, trash, even safety issues from falling facades,” Conley said. “When a landlord or owner has problems with blight they should work with the town to correct safety issues.”

    She said a lawsuit should be a last resort but there are situations where if a building is unsafe and people are at risk of a building falling down or fires, it is necessary.

    j.vazquez@theday.com

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