BRISTOL - As part of the city’s efforts to fight blight, the City Council has been approving tax assessment freezes as an incentive for owners working to fix up dilapidated properties.
“We continue to address blight,” said Mayor Ken Cockayne. “Landlords and homeowners now understand that we’re serious about it. They’re taking the properties seriously and fixing up their properties and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
The council recently approved tax assessment freezes for an industrial property at 474 Birch St. and an apartment building at 45 Stearns St.
Tearing down a house is “the absolute last resort that we do,” Cockayne said. “We want to have someone fix up a house and get it cleaned up. The good thing is on many of these properties where we’ve been forced to tear down a house, new houses have been built.”
The city has a revolving fund, he explained. “So as we spend money on blight it comes out of that account. We put a lien on the properties, because we want to get our money back from the banks or the homeowners, and then it goes back into the account.”
Cracking down on blight has been one of Cockayne’s main priorities since coming into office in November, 2013.
“So far we have expended $2.6 million on blight, and we’ve gotten back almost $2.1 million. Because it’s a revolving account, that money has been used three or four times for demolition or enforcement and it keeps coming back to us. Right now we have about $500,000 out for collectible revenue,” he said.
“On some of these properties we’re not going to get back 100 percent of our money,” he noted. “But it’s an investment in the community, and by addressing these blighted properties we’re bringing up values and transforming neighborhoods.”
The owner of 474 Birch St. is Progressive Realty LLL, of Waterbury, which bought it for $510,000 last August. It was assessed at $615,860 in 2015.
Located near ESPN, the property is 2.4 acres, with one 42,928 square foot industrial building built in 1968, and one 18,000 square foot outbuilding. Before 2000 it was owned by Redstone Manufacturing Co.
Stearns Apartments LLC, of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., is the current owner of 45 Stearns St. It was assessed at $360,010 in 2015.
The three story building was built in 1900, is 11,988 square feet, and is located on 0.2 acres in the Federal Hill neighborhood.
Cockayne has said he believes the city’s crackdown on blight has helped reduce crime in Bristol, because it draws better tenants to the city’s rental properties.
In announcing a drop in the city’s crime rate last fall, Police Chief Brian Gould said there wasn’t any one thing he could point to but he had noticed a difference in the “quality of life” issues in Bristol, particularly in the West End portion of the city.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.