Landlord ordinance to be discussed Wednesday night

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© File photo of a New Britain Common Council meeting when the ordinance was passed. © File photo of a New Britain Common Council meeting when the ordinance was passed.

The New Britain Common Council is expected to discuss a controversial ordinance Wednesday night that targets absentee landlords and caused a group of them to file a lawsuit against the city and its mayor. 

The recently passed ordinance, which goes into effect on Feb. 1, calls for a $150 fee to be paid on every rental unit if the landlord does not live on-site. A penalty of $250 will be assessed for each day the fee is not paid.

On Tuesday, four landlords, along with the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance, filed a lawsuit to stop that fee from taking effect and have even called for the mayor's resignation. 

"The city manager, the city mayor and the city council work for us," said landlord Sam Circa. "This is our city, they are our employees and we are angry."

The alliance and landlords ordinance violates state and federal laws while the city officials are stating they're doing it not just to raise money, but to fight blight and stop absentee landlords.

"The lawsuit claims that this licensing fee/ordinance violates a number of constitutional provisions and that this it is illegal and is nothing more than a revenue generator for the City of New Britain," the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance Inc. and landlords said in a joint statement.

New Britain officials previously told Eyewitness News that the landlords are trying to scare their tenants and New Britain Communications Director Phil Sherwood said the mayor offered to renegotiate the fee and lower it to $50 instead of $150.

However, Sherwood said the landlords chose to file this lawsuit instead of coming back to the table. City officials believe the real issue is the part of the ordinance that requires the landlords to keep up their property.

The alliance, New Britain landlords, tenants, realtors and various members of the business community are all expected to attend the meeting where residents and members of the public can voice their opinion on the ordinance.

"If they want to speak until 1 in the morning, the council members will stay there and listen," Sherwood said. "Their concerns about their speech being limited is not accurate."

As of 5 p.m., hundreds of people were lining up at City Hall. The meeting will be held on Wednesday at New Britain City Hall at 7 p.m.

"Let's shut City Hall down," the people protested.

With hundreds of people expected to attend the meeting, city officials have requested extra security and ambulances be present at the council chambers for safety purposes.

"The police will have this under control," Sherwood said. "The council members will carry through with their meeting."

Emergency service officials are also planning on shutting down Main Street in front of the building to give the crowd somewhere to gather outside of the council room.

The common council also recently passed an ordinance that will charge property owners "hot spot fees" for the properties that generate the highest volume of police and fire calls in the city.

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