Norwich city leaders are expected to address concerns with blighted properties in the city.
Mayor Peter Nystrom emphasized blight in the annual state of the city address Monday night.
“I do not think we are in a position to ignore them any further,” Nystrom said of the blighted properties.
According to Nystrom, there are more than 100 blighted properties across the city. The blight is handled on a complaint basis by the city’s sole blight officer, but what constitutes blight is wide-ranging. Nystrom said that there is no sweeping code or definition for blight in Norwich.
“I want to create a policy that covers the whole city so that everyone clearly understands what is expected,” said Nystrom. “We need to ask more of some of our people who have bought properties in this community and simply sit on them because the others are investing, are working hard to maintain.”
Jean Tardif lives in the Greenville section of Norwich. She is the captain of the Neighborhood Watch, a role she also uses as an opportunity to let the blight officer know of any problem areas in the neighborhood.
“I care because I love my neighborhood,” said Tardif. “It is very hard because you cannot ask somebody to buy a place.”
Tardif said the blight varies from abandoned homes to trash piles left out for extended periods of time. Her neighbor, Debra Torres, struggles with the same sights.
“It brings the value of your house down,” said Torres. “I don’t want to be in this neighborhood anymore unless something is really getting done.”
Nystrom said that he is hoping to spend the next year with council members looking at ways to create policies, potentially open the door to grants that help address the properties and examining whether new state legislation applies.
A new law authorizes a superior court judge to appoint a “receiver,” an entity or a person, to take over rehabilitating or disposing of abandoned properties — industrial, residential or commercial — in communities with at least 35,000 inhabitants. Interested parties can petition the court to take over a property that has been abandoned for at least a year. The legislation is considered to be another tool for municipalities to address blight. Nystrom said they will look to see if it applies to the city.
Nystrom stressed that as the council holds these discussions, it will be crucial for the public to weigh in.
“This is about setting the table so people understand what is expected, but they can also understand how the city can help at the same time,” said Nystrom.