DARIEN – Chris Noe, a candidate for first selectman, has threatened to sue the town if Darien officials foreclose on his property after he racked up thousands of dollars of blight violations over the past four years.
Noe, who has run for the town’s top seat seven consecutive times, began accumulating daily $100 fines for blight violations, including fire damage and storing numerous boats in the yard of his Old Kings Highway South home in 2019. By September 2022, his fines exceeded $109,000 and the Blight Review Board recommended that the town consider foreclosure to recoup the debt.
The decision to foreclose the property is up to the Board of Selectmen, and the matter has yet to appear on an agenda. In the meantime, Blight Review Board Chair George Reilly, at a Wednesday meeting at Town Hall, asked Noe to make improvements so they could “put this behind us.”
According to meeting minutes from 2019, the board previously observed “some progress” on blight remediation soon after the fines kicked in. But almost four years later, Noe has received additional fines for housing numerous storage containers on his property.
On Thursday, Noe told CT Examiner he wanted the town officials to leave him alone.
“Do I have the ability to pay the fines? I do,” Noe said. “Do I have the ability to fight them? I would prefer that they leave me alone and allow me to finish the house because I’m almost done.”
But if the Board of Selectmen decides to pursue foreclosure, Noe said he would pursue litigation.
“It’s just going to go to court, and they’ll be embarrassed about what they’ve done,” he said.
In April, Noe appeared in front of the Blight Review Board for the first time in over two years to explain the remediation delays. He said he initially intended to solve issues with the property in 2019, but frequent flooding in his backyard shifted his attention to jacking up the house an additional 3 feet. He said the storage containers in the yard hold his personal belongings and construction materials.
At that meeting, Reilly urged him to finish construction – which Noe was admittedly undertaking by himself and without a building permit – and remedy the blight violations. But a month later, the containers still sat on the property.
“You can’t have those storage units on your property,” Reilly reiterated on Wednesday.
“Well, this is the first I’ve heard of that,” Noe replied.
In unison, the board members disagreed and insisted that they had told him about the violation the month prior.
One member, Ed Washecka, said Noe was choosing not to remedy the blight.
“You chose to start this process on your own. If you had done it with a team of people, maybe it would be done. And if you had done it with a building permit, there would be no blight,” Washecka said of the construction. “So I mean, it’s decisions that you have made that have led to the fines.”
Michael Burke, a selectman and Blight Review Board member, suggested that Noe instead write to the Board of Selectmen, as it was no longer up to their board.
Burke told CT Examiner on Thursday that in his two years on the Blight Review Board, this is the first referral for foreclosure that he’d seen.
“It may well be the first time that that board has made such a referral since the statute’s been enacted,” he said.
Burke said the selectmen have not yet discussed the foreclosure recommendation as they’ve been busy with the municipal budget process and recent purchase of Great Island. When they do discuss the matter, he said, it would be in executive session with town counsel, as a foreclosure could lead to “potential litigation.”
Noe told CT Examiner that if the matter got to court, a judge may “throw the whole thing out,” as he claims he has been mistreated by town officials, staff and neighbors, partly due to his reputation.
During his initial run for first selectman in 2009, he addressed his criminal past, including time served in a maximum security prison for attempted murder in 1983, and an arrest for trespassing and breach of peace in 1995.
“Of course, Chris Noe’s got his own bad reputation,” he said. “So, you know, they don’t want me here.”
But Blight Review Board meeting minutes highlight numerous times in which the members and town blight officers warned Noe of the accumulating fines and urged remediation.
At Noe’s first appearance at a board meeting in February 2019, he disputed the initial violation letter – sparked by a complaint from a neighbor – and offered to submit a remediation plan for the property. The board advised Noe to apply for a permit for the repairs, and he had an application filed with the Building Department by the following meeting.
Noe told CT Examiner he subsequently planted trees around the property to block his neighbors’ view and covered the boats in his yard with tarps.
Following an inspection of the property in May 2019, the town blight officer said conditions had improved, but that four violations were still uncorrected. Soon after, Noe’s daily fines began.
For the next four years, meeting minutes detailed two instances in which Noe was served citations from the town to pay the daily fees and two updates to the lien on his house.
At the end of the Wednesday board meeting, members voted to update the lien on the property. Burke told CT Examiner he was unsure of exactly how much debt Noe had accrued, but that the updated lien should be filed in the next few days.