Landlords Fight Back at Raucous Meeting

Opponents brought out duct tape and signs to protest plan to raise landlord fees.

By Jeff Saperstone
|  Friday, Oct 5, 2012  |  Updated 7:55 AM EDT
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Landlords Fight Back at Raucous Meeting

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The common council in New Britain approved a plan Thursday night, that will require landlords to pay a $150 fee per unit.

The measure passed 11-4 and was agreed upon to help close the city's $4 million budget gap.

But the opposition to the plan was fierce. More than 200 landlords and tenants packed into the council chambers to protest.

Some held "For Rent" signs, others taped their mouths shut in protest.

Landlords said the fee will only drive up rent for tenants and force many to leave the city because it will become too expensive.

"It's an attack on landlords It's an attack on tenants," Sam Zherka, the owner of Farmington Hills apartment complex, said. "It's an attack of residents of New Britain."

Mayor Tim O'Brien and other supporters believe the new fee will not only raise much needed funds but also cut down on blight. By passing the new fee, city leaders said they won't have to cut funds to critical programs like the library and youth museum.

At one point during the special meeting, one alderman tried to make a motion to hold a public comment period. That was quickly shut down by the corporation counsel.

In protest, a roll of electrical tape was passed around the crowd and landlords and other opponents of the plan placed pieces of tape over their mouths.

At least one group plans to file a lawsuit.

Mayor O'Brien said this a better alternative than an across-the-board tax hike.

"They stood up for New Britain taxpayers that have been subsidizing absentee landlords and owners of blighted properties," he said.

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