January 29, 2023

Public Hearing on Essex Anti-Blight Ordinance Oct. 6

Abandoned, burned out house at the northeast corner of North Main Street and New City Street (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

ESSEX— The board of selectmen Wednesday postponed the public hearing on the proposed anti-blight ordinance to Wednesday Oct. 6, citing a conflict with the zoning commission meeting on Monday.

The board earlier this month set the public hearing on the proposed ordinance for Sept. 20, and also tentatively scheduled a town meeting vote on the ordinance for the same evening.

First Selectman Phil Miller said members of the zoning commission requested the delay because the panel has three public hearings scheduled for  Sept. 20. He said some members of the commission wanted an opportunity to comment on the proposed ordinance, which has some overlap with zoning enforcement.

Miller added that he has received numerous e-mails and other contacts from residents about the ordinance since the draft document was published on the town website and in other media.  “It’s looking like we may have to make some changes and possibly hold another public hearing before there is a town meeting vote,” he said.  Selectmen Norman Needleman and Joel Marzi agreed there should be no plans for a town meeting vote on the ordinance on the same evening as the public hearing.

Abandoned house on Prospect Street, just off North Main Street (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

The ordinance, under discussion since early this year, was prompted by complaints and concerns from residents about three structures in town that were severely damaged by fire, yet remain standing in unsightly condition. The ordinance defines a blighted property, and authorizes the first selectman, or his or her designee, to take steps to remediate the blighted conditions. The ordinance, which includes an appeal procedure to the full board of selectmen, would allow the town to correct blighted conditions, including possible demolition of a blighted structure, and recover costs from the property owner.

The public hearing on the anti-blight ordinance convenes on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall. A town meeting vote on the ordinance would follow later in the fall.