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Repeat cases of overcrowded Norwich apartment to be investigated

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published February 26. 2013 4:00AM   Updated February 26. 2013 12:21PM
City officials meet with prosecutor

Norwich - City officials met for two hours Friday with a state prosecutor who handles housing issues to discuss repeated, dangerous overcrowding violations at two houses on West Thames Street.

City Director of Planning Peter Davis said the meeting with Judith Dicine, supervisory assistant state's attorney for housing matters, went very well. Davis said Dicine agreed to take on the case and work with city police to investigate whether criminal charges should be filed against building owners Robert Eldridge and Lin Feng Eldridge of 18 Fitchville Road, Montville.

"I was very happy with the amount of effort she appears to want to put into this," Davis said.

The Day reported earlier this month that city officials had become frustrated at the apparent lack of progress in the criminal investigation after they turned over files and asked the housing prosecutor in the New London state's attorney's office in October to take action.

Davis declined to comment further on the meeting. Dicine said she could not comment on the potential investigation "other than to say that we met."

Patrick McCormack, executive director of the Uncas Health District, and Sanitarian David Coughlin joined city Zoning Enforcement Officer Tianne Curtis, city Code Enforcement Officers Edward Martin and George Gardner and Davis at the closed-door meeting Friday at Davis' office.

McCormack said he could not comment on the substance of the meeting. City officials provided files detailing the three overcrowding incidents at 718 and 724 West Thames St. since 2008.

The first incident started when neighbors complained of a failed septic system at 718 West Thames. An Uncas Health District official inspecting the septic system repairs saw smoke emanating from the basement. When building inspectors responded to that call, they discovered illegal bedrooms in the basement and the main floors of both houses.

City inspectors ordered the illegal temporary walls and electrical wiring removed and the house restored to single-family conditions.

In August 2010, a neighbor complained, and inspectors found four bedrooms in the basement and five on the main floors of each house. Temporary wall partitions and illegal wiring that had been removed were back. Another illegal bedroom was found above the garage. The two houses were condemned for the second time.

On Oct. 24, 2012, inspectors were alerted anew to the violations after firefighters were called to 718 West Thames St. for a medical emergency and found a large statue on the outdoor front steps blocking the door. The front entranceway had been converted into an illegal bedroom.

City inspectors found three basement bedrooms, one in the garage and six on the main floor at 718 West Thames, built as a two-bedroom house. Next door at 724 West Thames, also a two-bedroom house, inspectors found two basement bedrooms and four on the main floor.

In December 2012, Robert Eldridge obtained city building permits to remove the wall partitions and electrical work and restore the houses to single-family status. He did receive a permit to create a legal third bedroom at 718 West Thames. The houses were cleared for occupancy in January.

c.bessette@theday.com

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