Herbst responds to zoning enforcement criticism

To the Editor:

Recently, a citizen criticized our zoning enforcement practices as ineffective and unresponsive. In the past eighteen months since hiring the Town’s first full-time zoning enforcement officer, the overwhelming anecdotes from the public and hard data show just the opposite; we have never done a better job deploying town resources to uphold the local zoning code. In fact, the zoning enforcement officer has addressed 350 reports of zoning and blight violations since July 2012. Furthermore, 85% of those cases were remediated, and of the 15% that remain open, many of them are chronic violations that we continue to pursue, some through court action. The volume and nature of the cases closed are a testament to the professionalism and tactfulness of our zoning enforcement officer. In particular, the zoning office has done an outstanding job of remediating blight on vacant foreclosed properties, which is particularly difficult given the intricate web of third-party and out-of-town management companies that act as stewards over such parcels.

Vacant properties have been, and should be, at the core of the zoning enforcement mission, because they pose the biggest threat to health, safety, welfare and community character. The 30 cases Mr. Burdo has reported in the past year all involved boats stored on residential properties without the correct setbacks and screening. While this is a violation of local code, (which we noticed to the general public in two separate Town Clerk newsletters), it does not qualify as a time-sensitive threat to public safety. Furthermore, there is ample Connecticut case law supporting that zoning enforcement officers can and must use professional discretion when prioritizing the pursuit of individual zoning cases. Frankly, I am pleased that our team uses discretion to place public welfare threats at the top of its list. Such a practice constitutes efficient deployment of public funds yielding the greatest return on investment to our citizenry.

Timothy M. Herbst

First Selectman

Town of Trumbull