It’s a neighborhood nightmare. A blighted house creates visual pollution. There are health and fire hazards. Property values plummet.
Neighbors want to help. They worry about their health and homes, but they also care about the owner of the blighted house. They contact various agencies, which for a variety of reasons say they can’t act.
So — as desperate as they are — the neighbors won’t take the one step necessary to start the legal process in motion. Unwilling to cause an eviction — and not wanting to make waves — no one steps forward to make a formal complaint.
That’s the precarious situation with one home near the beach. It’s on Norwalk Avenue, off Soundview Drive.
The home is owned by a woman who seems to be a hoarder. It’s crammed with so much stuff and trash, it’s hard to see in. It’s also overrun by feral cats — up to 30, perhaps. They attack neighbors’ cats (clawing one in the eye, requiring expensive surgery).
The cats roam into yards up and down the street, occupying basements and crawl spaces of homes that were flooded and are awaiting teardown or renovation. One neighbor found 5 cats sleeping on her front porch. Fleas are rampant.
Neighbors admit they are part of the problem. No one wants to sign a formal complaint.
Meanwhile, Westport’s blight law seems to apply only to abandoned houses. Neighbors say the health department has tried to help, but this seems out of their jurisdiction. Animal control has been called several times, but is not allowed to trap the cats or remove them. The Humane Society won’t take feral cats.
Homes near the beach sell quickly, for a couple of million dollars — at least. Yet at least one has been on the market for months. The hoarder/blight house seems to be a deal-breaker.
Still, no one will sign a formal complaint. No one wants to cause an eviction. They don’t want to be “that guy.”
At least one neighbor has offered to pay for his own landscaper to work on the hoarder/cat woman’s property. She refused.
“I am sensitive to (the Norwalk Avenue owner’s) plight,” a neighbor says. “I just want to do what is right for the cats, and for the neighborhood. I think we need to help her, not shame her or pepper her with violation tickets, which she won’t pay anyway. But it’s hard to know how to help.”
Meanwhile, the cats multiply.
The neighborhood waits. And worries.