After the Common Council approved a flat charge of $150 per unit and then passed a “Hot Spot” fee for landlords last week, the landlords have gotten together to make a plan to alter that decision.
On Tuesday night landlords met at Roma Bar & Grill and came up with a strategy. It includes a lawsuit putting an injunction on the new tax and a rally on Oct. 24 in front of City Hall.
The group, which will form under the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance, Inc., (CPOA) plan to rally prior to the Common Council meeting handing out t-shirts which may read something such as “NO BRIEN”. They then plan to hold events throughout the year to prevent Mayor Tim O’Brien and Aldermen who voted for the proposal to be re-elected next year.
Landlords agreed to put up $100 per unit to hire a lawyer and buy t-shirts. Plans also call for getting the media across the country involved.
“The worst thing for a politician is a well-funded activist,” said Sam Zherka, of Metro Holdings Corp. who holds properties in the City.
Bob DeCosmo, president of the CPOA, said the group has been in contact with several attorneys and there is a very good chance the lawsuit against the City will prevail in court.
“The City of New Britain does not have the authority to create a tax,” said DeCosmo. “This is not a fee because no service is being done for you. It is an illegal tax.”
DeCosmo said they could also force the City to pay for their legal fees.
This came about following a Special Council Meeting Oct. 3.
At that time the Council Chambers was standing room only as over 200 people turned out representing landlords, tenants and Central Connecticut State University residents.
They held signs reading such things as “Blue Devils Not Cash Cows” and “For Rent”.
Before the meeting even began the council tried to remove the signs, but Citizens Property Owner President Nicholas Mercier showed the rules saying that signs were allowed for special meetings.
Alderman Jamie Giantonio motioned to suspend rules and allow public discussion, but after words from the City Attorney public discussion was allowed.
Mercier handed out duct tape to crowd members showing they were unable to speak.
Throughout the meeting members made catcalls and asked O’Brien to have common sense. Several times, the meeting was stopped until the crowd calmed down. Six police officers were on hand in case of rowdiness.
Alderman Carlo Carlozzi said that he could not support the $150 fee per unit ordinance to a loud ovation of the audience.
“I do not feel it is in the best interest of the City of New Britain,” said Carlozzi. “We have a fragile housing market. As of this afternoon, we have 165 multi-families listed for sale by realtors.”
He said although housing has stabilized in the state realtors have told him in New Britain it continues to decline.
“If we pass this it may not seem like an awful lot, but it is going to be passed down to the tenants,” said Carlozzi. “Property owners say my tenants cannot afford another dollar. I think this does the opposite of what we are trying to do.”
Carlozzi told council members if they were on the fence that voting no was better than voting yes and regretting it later.
Giantonio said the mayor’s office budget has tripled, but meanwhile the council is driving for revenue for the City by turning its back on City business owners.
“There are this many people here, because this is a bad idea,” said Giantonio.
Giantonio said costs would be passed to tenants, landlords would be unable to take care of their property and people would walk away from this City.
“It affects every property owner,” Giantonio said. “I urge my colleagues to think about it and dig deep. Maybe we can find other ways to raise this $4 million.”
Alderman David DeFronzo said the budget went into effect in June.
“We knew the tough choices we were going to have to make since June. We knew there would be some kind of fee on landlords,” said DeFronzo. “If we have ideas people want to put forward, I would be happy to consider them.”
DeFronzo said that without these fees the senior center would be cut, pools would be cut, after school programs would be cut and funding for the library would be cut.
“If these guys don’t want to invest in these properties, then we are going to have them,” said Alderman Willie Pabon. “That means we are going to be the biggest slum lords around.”
Alderman Roy Centeno tried to lighten up the mood with a joke that started “what did one landlord say to another?” But it was finished by a landlord in the audience that responded “Don’t buy in New Britain.”
Centeno said he didn’t support it because it unfairly targeted one group of people.
Alderman Michael Trueworthy said this proposal will not close the budget gap. This fee would gain about $900,000 for the City. He said the council compromised in making the resolution.
It passed 11-4. Those voting against it were Centeno, Pabon, Carlozzi and Giantonio.
Those voting for it were DeFronzo, Trueworthy, Suzanne Bielinski, Rha-Sheen Brown, Eva Magnuszewski, Tobias Freeman, Shirley Black, Adam Platosz, Tonilynn Collins. Larry Hermanowski and Manny Sanchez.