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Owner of allegedly illegal events venues in Norwich charged with failure to correct fire hazard

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Norwich — The owner of an allegedly illegal large events venue was arrested last week after she allegedly failed to comply with a city fire marshal’s order to correct fire safety violations at her Mount Crescent House at 270 Broadway.

Huey “Natalie” Min Lee, 61, of 62 Mohegan Road, Norwich, was charged May 3 with a single count of failure to abate a fire hazard. She was released on a written promise to appear in Norwich Superior Court on May 19. Lee turned herself in to Norwich police May 3 after the city fire marshal’s office obtained a warrant April 5 for her arrest.

Lee, who controls the LLCs that own three properties in Norwich that she rents for large events, also faces a civil lawsuit filed by the city’s zoning enforcement officer alleging Lee has been renting her properties in violation of city zoning regulations and has failed to comply with repeated violation notices.

In the civil case, New London Superior Court Judge Robert Young on Monday denied Lee’s motion to dismiss the case. The judge cited state statutes that the city does have proper legal standing to adjudicate a zoning dispute through state Superior Court.

In the criminal complaint, Norwich Fire Marshal Mark Gilot wrote that on Dec. 13 he conducted a “life/safety/fire code inspection” at Lee’s Mount Crescent House venue at 270 Broadway based on a court-approved administrative search warrant issued Dec. 6.

Gilot wrote that, during the inspection, he documented 18 fire safety code violations at the property. Gilot issued an abatement order Dec. 17, with corrections ordered to be completed by Jan. 20. The warrant stated that Lee failed to comply with the order by the Jan. 20 deadline.

The civil lawsuit by the city includes allegations that Lee continues to rent three Norwich properties — the Mount Crescent House at 270 Broadway, a large house at 138 Mediterranean Lane in a residential neighborhood and a bed-and-breakfast at 380 Washington St. — for large events with no permits.

Lee had obtained approval from the Commission on the City Plan for a bed-and-breakfast inn at 270 Broadway, and the Lathrop Manor at 380 Washington St. already was an approved bed-and-breakfast when she purchased the house. But city regulations require bed-and-breakfast facilities to be owner-occupied. The city claims Lee or her representative do not live at the houses.

The city also claims Lee never obtained final zoning approval for 270 Broadway, which would require compliance with fire safety codes. Lee, who is representing herself in the court proceedings, has claimed making the alterations ordered by the city fire marshal’s office, including sprinklers or sealing off the third floor, would ruin the historic 1870 mansion.

Lee claims the state recognizes her properties as legitimate short-term rentals, because she pays the state 15% room occupancy tax for short-term rentals.

c.bessette@theday.com

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