Wilton updates blight procedures

The town of Wilton’s procedures for addressing blight were recently updated after they were found to be improper, First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice announced at the Board of Finance’s July 18 meeting.

Within three months after Ira Bloom was hired as Wilton’s new town counsel, Vanderslice told The Bulletin, she asked him to review the town’s blight procedures and documentation.

“We found there were more steps that we had to do that we previously hadn’t been doing,” she said.

In the spring, Wilton’s blight enforcement officers began meeting with Berchem, Moses & Devlin attorney Mario Coppola to discuss the town’s blight procedures. Coppola then developed a “very detailed, step-by-step manual for addressing blight,” said Vanderslice.

Wilton has three blight enforcement officers — Health Department Director Barry Bogle, Chief Building Official Robert Root, and Zoning Enforcement Officer Timothy Bunting.

Vanderslice said Social Services Director Sarah Heath was recently added to Wilton’s “blight team” to help the officers and provide “an additional administrative element that we didn’t have before.”

“Heath is experienced with blight resolution having worked under these same procedures while in Westport,” Vanderslice told The Bulletin. “She brings both knowledge and another resource to help move the process along to resolution.”

According to Vanderslice, the town currently has “a backlog of 13 cases of blight.”

“We are all committed to resolving these and not allowing them to linger as they have in the past, so we have divided up the caseload between the three officers and we’re moving on them,” said Vanderslice.

“We’re hoping that as people see that we’re actually serious about addressing them, that maybe some other people will move along [with fixing their blighted properties] quicker than they have before.”

There is usually a reason why a person has blight, said Vanderslice, and while the town wants to resolve cases of blight, it also wants to help resolve other issues going on.

Addressing blight is a “very difficult process,” she said, but it can also be “rewarding” because “you may identify other issues and get the person help.”

Town Planner Bob Nerney told The Bulletin last summer that Wilton adopted a blight ordinance about 10 years ago. He said the ordinance did not typically involve aesthetic issues.

“If somebody allows their lawn to grow too tall or they have things scattered about their property like gas grills and bicycles, those are not blight,” said Nerney.

“Blight would be broken windows and other types of conditions that may or may not lead to uninhabitable conditions — structural decay of buildings, water damage, insect infestation, and things of that nature.”