September 2, 2014

Chester Planning and Zoning Sets Public Hearing on Organic Market

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has scheduled a public hearing, Thursday September 9, on a special permit application for an organic market in a vacant building at 56 Middlesex Avenue.

The public hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street. The panel will also hold public hearings on a special permit application for a Jazzercise studio in vacant space at 3 Inspiration Lane, and a proposed two-lot resubdivision of a 16.75-acre parcel at 49 Wig Hill Road.

Local resident Peter Kehayias is the applicant for the organic market at the property owned by 56 Middlesex Avenue LLC of Cromwell. The vacant building, which most recently housed a bycycle repair shop, is located on the east side of Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154, directly across from the intersection with Main Street. Kehayias proposes to sell locally-grown organic produce, including meats and fish, and speciality items.

The proposed Organic Market at Chester would also have an area with “cafe-style seating for 12 to 25 customers.”  The plans call for 19 parking spaces, 17 regular spaces and two handicapped spaces.

Jazzercise currently operates in Deep River, offering classes in exercise and health-related topics. Classes would be held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the morning, and evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with some Saturday classes. The proposed location is at 3 Inspiration Lane, in a complex owned by the Chester Group LLC.

The proposed resubdivision calls for creating a new 5.43-acre building lot from a parcel at 49 Wig Hill Road owned by Bruce and Mary Rayner. The existing house on the parcel would remain on an 11.3-acre lot. Local zoning regulations require a public hearing for resubdivisions.

Essex Selectmen Set September 20 Hearing and Vote on Anti-Blight Ordinance

ESSEX— After months of on and off discussion, the board of selectmen has scheduled a Sept. 20 public hearing and town meeting vote on a local anti-blight ordinance.

The public hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.  First Selectman Phil Miller said the current plan is to open the town meeting and vote on the ordinance immediately after the conclusion of the public hearing.
 Miller said the vote could be deferred to another date if comments at the public hearing indicate residents are not comfortable with any aspect of the proposed ordinance. “They could send us back to the drawing board and there would be no vote that night,” he said.

The board began discussing a possible anti-blight ordinance last winter after complaints from property owners about three houses that have remained standing for months after sustaining severe damage from fires.The proposed ordinance was drafted by town attorney David Royston after a review of anti-blight ordinances in other Connecticut municipalities.

The purpose of the proposed ordinance is to “prevent or eliminate blighted premises” in Essex. It defines a blighted structure as one the town building official determines poses “a serious threat to public health and safety,” and contains “violations of the Connecticut Public Health Code” as determined by the town’s health director. A blighted structure could also be “a fire hazard as determined by the fire marshall or documentsed by fire department records.” The ordinance would prohibit blighted structures as a “public nuisance.”

Formal complaints about a blighted structure must be presented in writing to the first selectman, building official, fire marshall, health director or zoning enforcement officer.

If there is a determination that blighted conditions exist at a structure, town officials would then issue a notice of violation to the property owner. The notice of violation would include a description of the violations, and a deadline of no more than 15 days after the notice of violation is issued for correction of the blighted conditions. The deadline for compliance could be extended for up to 60 days by the first selectman or his or her designee.

Property owners would have an opportunity to appeal a notice of violation to the board of selectmen. The board of selectmen is authorized “but under no circumstances is required” to take remedial action to correct a blighted structure, including initiation of legal proceedings in superior court to recover all costs incurred by the town, “including reasonable attorney’s fees,” to correct a blighted structure situation.

The ordinance provides for fines of $100 per day for violations, and authorizes the town to impose liens on properties to recover costs incurred in resolving a blighted structure violation.

During discussion of the proposed ordinance earlier this year. Royston had cautioned the selectmen that the town could be unable to recover all costs incurred in correcting a blighted structure situation if a property owner lacks the assets to cover the costs. The provision for leins on parcels could allow the town to recover expenses if and when the property is sold.