New Britain Herald: Landlords discuss displeasures with fees and ordinances in New Britain
By ROBERT STORACE
NEW BRITAIN — Saying the city is “pickpocketing everyone” and “human life is now at risk,” several speakers Tuesday evening discussed and lambasted two city ordinances aimed at hitting rental properties with additional city fees.
Most of the 100 people who attended the discussion on fees were landlords who repeatedly expressed their displeasure with the administration of Democratic Mayor Timothy O’Brien. The discussion and forum — moderated by former Republican Mayor Timothy T. Stewart — was held at Whinstone Tavern at Stanley Golf Course. The event was sponsored by savenewbritain.com.
“It’s time they (city leaders) look at the budget and make tough decisions instead of pickpocketing everyone they think of,” said Branford resident JR Romano, Connecticut state director of Americans for Prosperity, one of the speakers. “I got involved when I started to read about what was going on in New Britain. I had to get involved. You are targeting average people.”
At issue are two ordinances. One, which is currently in effect, charges absentee landlords $50 per unit for the first three units; $40 per unit for the next 10 units; and $35 per unit for each additional unit to a maximum fee of $12,000 per property unit. That ordinance is being challenged in court. The other ordinance is a “hot spot” fee which charges for nuisance calls, such as loud noise or parties.
Annalisa Russell-Smith | Staff Local landlords raise their hands when asked “How may of you are not slumlords?” at a meeting of concerned city property owners and residents held at Whinstone Tavern at Stanley Golf Course Tuesday.
Many in attendance Tuesday said they believe the ordinance target those who call 911, despite what the administration says.
“Human life is now at risk. It will create hesitation among many people before placing a (911) call,” said Bob DeCosmo, president of Waterbury-based Connecticut Property Owners Alliance and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Said city resident Karol Steczkowski, a member of savenewbritain.com, “The 911 ordinance is very ambiguous as written now. First they determine if it’s an emergency or not and then they determine who has to pay for it. Then, they determine the amount of the fine. The city is judge, jury and executioner all in one.”
But, late Tuesday Phil Sherwood, O’Brien’s deputy chief of staff, countered, “No one will ever be charged for calling 911. It’s a deliberate lie to mislead the public. What they may be charged for are if they’ve had too many nuisance-related calls to their property such as excessive noise, prostitution and underage partying.”
Dan Silver, one of the attorneys representing 53 landlords in the legal battle, also addressed the crowd.
Silver said “there (lawsuit) is a good possibility this could be resolved” adding, “we continue to have discussions with the city.”
Silver did say there were several parts of the licensing ordinance that many residents were not aware of. That, he said, included one provision he called “scary. If an inspector finds a violation and cites you, it could be a minor violation, you have 30 days to complete (fix) it and you have to pay a $150 re-inspection fee.”