The Town of West Hartford has received complaints of properties not being maintained properly, and has issued a reminder regarding the responsibilities of residents and businesses.
By Ronni Newton
The property that was formerly the UConn West Hartford campus, purchased by Ideanomics for $5.2 million in 2018 for the purpose of creating a global technology center called Fintech Village, remains under contract to be sold to an unnamed entity but in the meantime there continue to be complaints about the long grass and weeds on the property, as well as recent graffiti that has appeared.
The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, which has responsibility for enforcing and monitoring property maintenance, has confirmed that Ideanomics has engaged a company to attend to the overgrown conditions on the 58-acre former campus.
“The Health District has spoken with Allstate Contracting, the landscaping contractor that Ideanomics has retained to mow the property,” Town Manager Matt Hart said Tuesday. The company had started on the project, but has been slowed by wet conditions, he said, and plans to resume work within the next day or two.
A resident posted a photo of graffiti that had appeared on the former IT building over the weekend, and it had not been removed as of Tuesday afternoon. The IT building, the newest structure on the former campus, is across the driveway from the former library building facing Asylum Avenue.
On Tuesday, it was observed that graffiti has also been scrawled across the garage doors on a building along Lawler Road.
Chris Hansen, assistant director of health for the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, said he has referred the graffiti matter to the police and zoning departments for enforcement but he is responsible for monitoring the upkeep of the grounds.
“The Health District will continue to stay on top of any property maintenance issues occurring on site,” Hansen said, and will issue citations as warranted. Under Chapter 115 of the town’s code, West Hartford’s “Litter and Community Appearance Standards Ordinance” Housing and Property Maintenance Ordinance specifies charging of a fine of $79 per day for violation of the ordinance, which states that “grass, weeds, or similar growth” on any property containing a building or dwelling, or any undeveloped premises, is not permitted to exceed one foot in height.
Hart said the town had started issuing citations to Ideanomics last month, but had stopped when the contractor was hired. He said if the mowing does not resume, the fine will need to be reinstated.
The name of the buyer has not been publicly announced, but according to Hart, the sale of the property is expected to take place by the end of 2021.
“We are under contract, and the sale process is ongoing,” John Cafasso, principal at Colliers International and the broker for Ideanomics, confirmed to We-Ha.com on Tuesday.
The town has continued to mow the right of way along the sidewalk, the ballfields, and the roadside edges.
“As a rule, the town does not mow private property as it does not have legal access or capacity to handle this work,” Hart said. “Last year the town did hire a private landscaper to mow the Ideanomics property at the town’s expense, pursuant to the access agreement and right of first refusal that it had negotiated with Ideanomics.”
That agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2020, and this spring Ideanomics entered into a contract to sell the entire property for $2.75 million.
The Ideanomics property is not the only parcel about which the town has received complaints. A residential property on Mohegan Drive had recently been the subject of complaints regarding maintenance, but as of Tuesday that lawn had been mowed.
To remind residents of their property maintenance responsibilities, the town provided the following FAQs on Tuesday:
Q: Why are tall grass and weeds a problem?
A: Whenever grass, weeds, bushes, vines, poison ivy or other vegetation are allowed to grow tall, there are negative consequences. Overgrown yards are not only an eyesore but are public health and safety issues too. Properties with tall grass and unkempt vegetation erode community value and create a breeding ground for rodents and other vermin. Lawns that are not being cared for give criminals the impression that the property is unattended and might be an easy target. The Town of West Hartford has a local law (known as an ordinance) that requires properties to be maintained and when they are not, the owner could face a penalty of $79 per day. According to West Hartford’s Litter and Community Appearance Standards, “No owner or occupant of any premises shall permit grass, weeds or similar growths to reach a height greater than one foot on any premises with a building or dwelling located thereon, whether said building or dwelling is occupied or not. Nor shall the owner of any undeveloped premises allow any grass, weeds or similar growths thereon greater than one foot in height to remain thereon within 25 feet of a street line or any adjoining property (West Hartford Code: Chapter 115-22).
Q: How can I tell if my shrubs are a visibility hazard to motorists?
A: Each year motor vehicle accidents are attributed to overgrown shrubbery on street corners. Here is a test to determine if you need to trim back your shrubbery. Drive up to white line on the road located before the stop sign and look to make sure you can see oncoming traffic and pedestrians without having to roll forward. If you have to roll forward, its time get out your hedge clippers. For the safety of all, it is important that hedges, bushes, trees or other growth or any fence do not obstruct a clear view of drivers (West Hartford Code: Chapter 177-24).
Q: Are overgrown hedges that reduce the full width of a sidewalk a violation?
A: Residents are asked to trim back or remove vegetation that hangs over sidewalks (West Hartford Code: Chapter 115-22). A wheelchair or stroller should be able to use the full width of the public sidewalk without having to go onto the grass. In addition, shrubs, hedges, grass and plants should not obstruct any sign.
Q: I have a tree limb that is touching my utility lines. Is that a problem?
A: Perhaps. We are all fully aware of the damage trees can cause when they take down utility lines during a storm. It is important that the growth and maintenance of trees do not obstruct utility lines or other cables and should not extend or infringe beyond the boundaries of your property (West Hartford Code: Chapter 115-22). Please visit Eversource’s Tree Trimming web page and then call 800-592-2000.
Q: It looks like poison sumac may be growing at the edge of my property. Am I responsible for removing it?
A: Yes. Permitting any poison ivy, poison sumac or other poisonous vegetation to grow or remain on any property within 25 feet of a street line or any adjoining property line is prohibited (West Hartford Code: Chapter 115-22).
“Enforcement of these ordinances is not intended to burden property owners, but instead to raise awareness of the responsibilities of maintaining your property so West Hartford is a safe and enjoyable community,” West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renée McCue said.
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