Darien Blight board filled out, 13 properties receive complaints
DARIEN — The tricky work of investigating blighted properties in town can begin — almost.
Nearly four months after the town’s first blight ordinance was passed, the last of the five-member Blight Review Board has been appointed. Liz Bacon, a member of the Representative Town Meeting’s (RTM) second district was voted on to the Review Board at a Monday, March 20 meeting.
The group and the town’s yet to be appointed Blight Officer can now focus on the 16 complaints on 13 properties submitted by the public.
Among the complaints already filed with the Planning and Zoning Department, seven were filed anonymously. The complaints were filed between Oct. 24, 2016, the day the ordinance was voted into effect by the RTM, with the last being received March 13.
Complaints range from tarp-covered and rusted-out vehicles on one property to chipped paint, broken windows and debris-covered yards on others.
Blight Complaints Received
Properties against which blight complaints have been filed have not yet been vetted or confirmed blighted.
Here is a list of properties that residents — some anonymous and some providing names — have alleged meet the description of blight:
122 Delafield Island Road
37 Catalpa Terrace
30 Catalpa Terrace*
72 Camp Ave.
10 Devon Rd.
6 Devonshire Dr.
95 Goodwives River Road
160 Hollow Tree Ridge Road*
149 Nearwater Lane
53 Maple St.
76 Sedgewick Ave.*
11 Top O’Hill Road
314 West Ave.
*Multiple complaints filed
A home on Maple Street, which is owned by a Massachusetts-based LLC, was said by one complainant to be dilapidated and rodent infested. Another home, 122 Delafield Island Road, which Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg said was vacant, was said in a complaint to be the site of underage drinking and drug activity.
The Blight Officer, expected to be appointed within the month, will next assess the complaints and attempt to find a solution before involving the board. The officer can also contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) to ensure the homeowner being complained of is not in need of town services.
Before a warning is issued on any property, the Blight Review Board must decide it meets the definition of blight as described in Section 3 of the ordinance, which says a home is blighted if it attracts illegal activity, is deemed a fire hazard, is dilapidated or in danger of collapsing or “constitutes a general threat to the health, safety or welfare” of the community. Alternately, if those four descriptors do not apply, a home could be considered blighted if it meets at least two listed characteristics of blight, including broken or boarded-up windows, missing or loose siding or gutters and inoperative vehicles parked on the premises, among others.
Though Ginsberg could only confirm that 122 Delafield Island was vacant, there may be other vacant homes on the list as well. He added that a Blight Officer will likely be appointed within a month’s time and then the complaints will begin to be addressed by the Review Board and the officer.
Bacon was named to the Blight Review Board with fanfare.
“At the heart of it was an orientation to protecting the frail and resolving issues of persistent blight,“ said Kemp in a statement he read endorsing Bacon for the role, citing her experience in town as an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and longtime resident. “This group of five distinguished members of the community may be thought of as the heart and soul of the community, making wise choices based on their experience.”
In remarks made before the RTM voted, Bacon, a member of the Rules subcommittee, stated her pleasure with the ordinance, its drafter, Frank Kemp, who chairs the Town Government Structure and Administration subcommittee, and its dedication to protecting the elderly or otherwise disabled residences who might not be able to provide solutions to instances of blight on their own.
“When this ordinance first came forward in the fall, I was on the Rules Committee when I was first introduced to it and I was really impressed with the due diligence that Frank and his committee had done on it,” Bacon said. “I support this ordinance and I would be happy to serve to see it implemented.”
The board also includes Rob Richards, of the Board of Selectmen, Holly Hawes, of the Human Services Commission, Kevin Cunningham, of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and Jim Metzger, of the Commission on Aging.