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Blighted properties draw complaints in all parts of town

Updated 4:04 pm, Friday, March 1, 2013

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  • The Representative Town Meeting received a report on blighted buildings in town, including this one at 3611 Post Road. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    The Representative Town Meeting received a report on blighted buildings in town, including this one at 3611 Post Road. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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The former Double LL farmstand on the Post Road, close to the town's border with Westport, is a sore point in the Representative Town Meeting's District 1.

For those living in the Stratfield section of town, the trouble spot is the former Stratfield Market.

On upper Black Rock Turnpike, it's the former Plant Factory property that draws complaints, and over on Kings Highway East, it's the building that once housed I. Brown Brothers furniture store.

All of those properties can be found on the town's list of blighted properties, and town Building Official Jim Gilleran detailed the list in his annual report to the Representative Town Meeting on Monday.

"Every year, for the past six years, there's been blight," Gilleran said. Some properties are removed from the blight list when work is completed or an offending structure is torn down. Others remain listed, though cleanup work has been started. Others, however, have been moved from the blight list to the Condemnation Board because the citations have not been addressed.

There are 35 properties on the blight list for 2012. Three are new to the list, 12 have complied with orders to clean up the property, 17 are pending, four have been cited for not responding and two have had liens imposed by the town. Complaints about two properties, however, did not meet the standards of blight.

The town has collected $39,300 in liens and fines over the past year.

Gilleran said there are many properties that never are formally listed as blighted because the problem is corrected as soon as the owner is notified, or what prompted a complaint did not meet the definition of blight.

"I got about 75 complaints over the year, plus hundreds of inquiries," Gilleran said, regarding what is and is not blight.

The cleanup of some properties would proceed even faster, he said, if the fines and liens collected could go into a special fund to do the necessary work. The fines, however, now are assigned to the budget's general fund.

Jay Wolk, D-6, raised the issue of conditions at the former Stratfield Market property on Stratfield Road, which closed in 2006. The building has been empty since then, and plans to open a Walgreen's pharmacy, opposed by many neighborhood residents, were denied by the town's land-use boards. Walgreen's still has a long-term lease for the property.

"The building is pretty ugly," said Kevin Hoffkins, D-7, who added he drives by the building each day. "The stucco is badly peeling, the windows are soaped up." It is, he said, the "exact type of building the blight ordinance was meant to deal with."

Gilleran said the problem with the former market is a recurring one. When he receives complaints, he said, he contacts Walgreen's and the issue -- most often graffiti -- is taken care of.

"I could start fining Walgreens $100 a day," Gilleran said, adding it's up to the Blight Committee to decide whether a blighted property has been cleaned up enough to be removed from the list. "They will fix it up just enough," he said of Walgreens response to the complaints.

"Something should be done to make the property more presentable," Hoffkins said. "It's a source of agitation." He said there should be "more demanding standards" for commercial properties.

The former I. Brown Brothers furniture store -- on which the town collected $35,800 from a lien imposed on the property -- is showing signs that improvements may be on tap. New fencing has been erected around the site, with signs indicating the property is now owned and managed by RD Scinto. The Town Plan and Zoning Commission several years ago approved an application to develop a new commercial/retail building on the site, but the project never materialized.

Gaylord Meyer, R-1, expressed concern about the former farmstand site on the Post Road in the Southport section of town near Westport. "It is definitely an eyesore," she said. "It's been moved to condemnation. What is going to happen? It is the gateway to Southport."

"Every entrance to town has one of these properties," Gilleran said. He said the former Double LL farmstand at 3611 Post Road is slated to be torn down. He would do it, Gilleran said, but lacks the money or equipment. "This is going to be done as soon as the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and RTM give me some money," he said.

Joseph DeMartino, R-4, said the RTM subcommittee reviewing the blight ordinance will have a full report next month on recommendations for changes.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost