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New London blight ordinance aimed at vacant buildings

January 12, 2019

New London — The city is toughening up its blight ordinance again with a new provision aimed at improving the look of the downtown business district and prodding the owners of nuisance properties to make changes.

“Storefront standards for commercial properties” regulate the look of empty vacant properties and buildings under renovation and allow the city to impose fines of up to 250 a day.

Cleaning up the city

Barry Neistat, the co-owner of Muddy Waters at 42 Bank St., said he was encouraged by the new ordinance, considering that from his storefront he has a view of a stretch of Bank Street buildings, including the former Capitol Theater, with missing windows and plywood on display.

“I’m a property owner and we do whatever we have to keep our buildings in shape,” Neistat said. “It’s not fair to them to be maintaining theirs while their neighbors do not. Why should we suffer?”

Frank McLaughlin, a downtown building owner and member of the City Center District’s blight committee, said the district has worked with the blight officer and submitted areas of concern for investigation.

“It’s still not perfect but we’re pleased with the progress the city is making. We feel they are a partner in getting the downtown cleaned up,” McLaughlin said.

Most councilors appeared optimistic that the new ordinance could have some impact. Councilor Martin Olsen said the ordinance looked to be “an attempt to change a longstanding culture in our community. I applaud you.” Council President Don Venditto said the ordinance addresses what he called the cheapening of downtown.

Council member John Satti, who voted against the measure, voiced concern that the new rules could be an obstacle for some. He also said the city needs to manage its own properties, such as the boarded-up former Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue.

“I think we’re driving businesses out of town,” Satti said.

Reyes said, “The city needs to be an example and is currently working on cleaning up its own blight and property maintenance violations.”

g.smith@theday.com

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