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Stamford wins legal fix to clean blighted properties 5.17.10 Stamford Advocate

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									Originally in the Sunday paper: Stamford wins legal fix to clean blighted properties - Sta...                                             Page 1 of 2



 Originally in the Sunday paper: Stamford wins legal fix to clean blighted
 properties
 Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
 Published: 04:32 p.m., Monday, May 17, 2010


  
 This article originally appeared in the Sunday print edition of the Stamford Advocate.
 To subscribe, click here.

 For a list of blighted properties, click here.

 STAMFORD -- For city Rep. Gabe DeLuca, driving past the half-burned-out house on Washington
 Boulevard is maddening.

 Every day, he sees the boarded-up windows, the grayish-blue paint charred where the left side of the roof was eaten away by fire. A paved-over
 front lawn is cracking with weeds growing through, and a pile of broken cement is stacked haphazardly in front of the garage.

 A month ago, DeLuca was frustrated the city couldn't use money from its blight fund, a sitting balance of $162,000, to clean up the property.

 The city's blight ordinance allows it to remedy blighted properties, including painting, landscaping and demolition, and pay for it through liens on
 the property. Yet state law, mandating blight funds be used only for enforcement against property owners, stood in the way.

 Now the problem appears solved as state Reps. William Tong, D-Stamford, and Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, successfully shepherded a bill through
 the General Assembly last week that permits municipalities to use blight funds for derelict properties.

 "Under existing statute, you can only use that money to enforce the statute," Tong said. "You couldn't actually go into the property to remediate
 the blight, which is frankly what we all wanted to see happen. This now gives the city the power to use the money to address the blight itself."

 In a parallel effort, the city is aggressively pursuing $589,196 in outstanding fines on properties that have been labeled blighted in the past. In
 total, 21 owners owe blight-related fines to the city, some with complaints dating back as far as 2002, and with accumulated fines ranging from
 $744 to $146,094. Many have since rehabilitated the properties, while others remain in a state of disrepair.

 To ensure the money is collected, the city's legal department hired an attorney, Vincent Freccia, to go after owners. Freccia has written letters
 reminding them of the outstanding claims, and if the owners respond, they may be able to settle for a lesser amount. If they don't, the city will
 move into foreclosure proceedings, he said.

 It is unlikely the city will collect all the money owed because owners often settle, Freccia said. Any money collected goes into the city's blight fund.

 Asked why the fines had never before been collected, Freccia told city representatives at a recent meeting it seems the former administration,
 under Mayor Dannel Malloy, had not been intent on collecting the fines.

 "It appears that the prior administration had a less aggressive attitude toward these liens," Freccia said. "There was no aggressive posture by
 counsel to prosecute it."

 Freccia said he had been given various reasons by city workers for why the money wasn't collected, including that the city was intent on having the
 blight remedied rather than collecting fines, or that the money would eventually get paid once the property had been sold.

 But former Director of Legal Affairs Tom Cassone said the characterization of an apathetic stance is inaccurate. Under Malloy, the city also
 employed an outside counsel to go after complaints, in most cases with success, he said.

 "Every property that was a problem, they would either comply, or after going to foreclosure, at the last minute they would comply," Cassone said.
 "The idea of blighted properties though was never revenue; it was always compliance."

 DeLuca said he is happy to see the amended state law help the city in its efforts, especially at a property like that at 2382 Washington Blvd., which
 was destroyed by fire nearly a year ago.

 "I get worried that people could go in there and vandalize it, or that a squatter could go in there and cause another tragedy," DeLuca said. "It's not
 fair for the people who maintain their property to have to live next to something like that."

 Staff writer Magdalene Perez can be reached at magdalene.perez@scni.com or 203-964-2240.




http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Originally-in-the-Sunday-paper-Stamfor... 8/16/2010
Originally in the Sunday paper: Stamford wins legal fix to clean blighted properties - Sta...   Page 2 of 2



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http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Originally-in-the-Sunday-paper-Stamfor... 8/16/2010

								
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