Marijuana, Blight, and Fees Topics of Clinton Town Meeting – Zip06.com

By Eric O’Connell/Zip06.com • 10/12/2021 03:36 p.m. EST

The Town Council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 over proposed ordinances that if passed affect marijuana sale and consumption, blight, fire marshal fees, and increases in the land use fees.

After the hearing the Town Council has a regular meeting. The council is expected to enact the ordinances in that meeting.

At the public hearing, citizens can speak in favor of the ordinances, against the ordinances, or neutrally on the ordinances. In the past, proposed ordinances went to a public vote. However, per the Town Charter, the Town Council has the ability to approve ordinances.

“There is nothing that prevents the council acting the same day as the public hearing if they are comfortable with an ordinance. By charter, they have to act to enact or deny the ordinance within 30 days of the public hearing,” said Town Manager Karl Kilduff.

Of the four proposed ordinances being discussed at the hearing, two will be of significant interest to the general public.

Marijuana

Earlier this year, Connecticut legislators passed a bill that legalized recreational marijuana use by adults in the state. As a result, it is up to local zoning authorities to come up with regulations that either allowed or did not allow for a retail cannabis stores to open. At meeting on Sept. 13, the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) voted against proposed amendments to the zoning regulation that would have allowed a retail cannabis store to open in Clinton.

While the PZC voted to deny the proposed regulations, that doesn’t mean the commission explicitly banned the stores, which left open a loophole through which a business can still apply to open.

The members of the public who attended the PZC meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of banning marijuana sales, so the council members unanimously stated they were in favor of an ordinance that does so.

In addition to banning a business that sells cannabis products, the ordinance would also ban a person from using cannabis products on town owned property. The ordinance would subject a person to a $50 fine per violation.

Blight

The proposed blight ordinance revision is another proposed ordinance that will likely be of concern to most ordinary citizens. The proposed ordinance expands the definition of blight and changes some of the violations for blighted properties.

Under the proposed ordinance, blight complaints must be made in writing on forms provided by the town and submitted to the town manager or enforcement officer. (The current ordinance directs complaints to the first selectman position, which no longer exists.) Should it be determined that blight has occurred, the responsible party will be notified in writing and given a list of ways that the property can be brought into compliance by an established deadline. An extension of the deadline may be granted and the violation can be contested by notifying the town manager or enforcement officer within 10 days (the current ordinance allows 15 days) of being notified of the issue.

The appeals will be heard by a blight hearing board who can consider all relevant information as to why a violation can be successfully appealed or held up. Blight hearing board decisions can also be appealed to the superior court. The blight hearing board members will be appointed by the Town Council and its members cannot be members of the police department or employees who issue citations and fines or an employee who works in a department that enforces blight issues.

Violators can be fined $100 a day until the blight issue is resolved under the existing and the proposed ordinance. The town can also initiate court proceedings against a person in violation. Under the proposal, a person willfully in violation can be fined $250 a day.

In the event that a person responsible for a blighted property still doesn’t correct a violation even after enforcement action has been taken, the town may take action to correct the issue. Should that occur, the town may then file a civil claim against the party in order to recover all costs related to that corrective action.

Fire Marshal

The last two proposed ordinances may not directly affect most Clinton citizens, but they will affect those who work in development. Earlier in 2021 the council had approved a proposal that would create fee structure for fire marshal services, which Kilduff said is not unusual in Connecticut.

“It is important to note what will not result in a fee. The fire marshal is not involved in plan reviews for single-family homes. As a result, it is a fee that would be associated with larger developments—multifamily residential and commercial/industrial projects,” said Kilduff.

“The fire marshal provides plan review and inspection services and the fee is meant to have users of the service cover more of the fire marshal’s cost instead of all taxpayers,” Kilduff said.

Kilduff said that ordinances from other towns and cities were reviewed while coming up with Clinton’s fee structure.

“We then tailored the fee structure to reflect the activities occurring in Clinton and set a fee [that] reflects the level of work required by the fire marshal,” said Kilduff.

Land Use Fees

The last proposed ordinance that will be on the public hearing agenda is an amendment to land use fees. Kilduff said that the idea for fixing the fees came from the land use boards in town taking a closer look at their fees.

The formula used for determine fees is meant to cover only the application cost and not lead to a profit for the town. In fact, it’s illegal for the town to try to collect a profit off of plan review fees. However, when large developments come before the office, the formula leads to developers getting charged excessive sums based on the square footage of their developments.

“As a result, the Town Council had to act twice recently to reduce the fee to meet the legal standard of having a fee that reflects to costs to review and act on an application. One part of the proposed changes fixes that situation. Inland wetland fees were also reviewed and amended upward to reflect the cost to review and act on an application. The trigger for fees also will now have some harmony between the different land use board,” Kilduff explained.

The public hearing will be held virtually. Those interested can attend the meeting by clicking the link for the hearing that will be posted on the agenda for the hearing on the town website clintonct.org.

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