LITCHFIELD — The traffic was heavy in Bantam Wednesday afternoon, and it gave six women an opportunity to hold their protest signs high, showing their objection to alleged blight in the borough.

Under the hot sun, horns beeped and people waved and made victory signs as they drove by.

In front of Patterson Oil’s closed Shell gas station, Jennifer Whittlesey, Fran Clem and Diane Gillman held signs that said: “Fix up or sell” and “Fight the Blight.” Clem’s sign provided Patterson’s phone number, asking passersby to call and make him an offer on the property.

The station has been closed since 2011. A proposed convenience store and gas station plan was rejected by the borough’s Planning and Zoning Commission several years ago, and the property has been untouched since then.

“It’s disgusting,” Whittlesey said, gesturing at the station.

“I’m here to shed light on a disastrous building that’s falling down,” Gillman said, peering out from under a floppy red hat. “It’s just terrible.”

Meanwhile, across the street heading into Bantam, three other women stood in front of Dream House: Lauren Sage, Anne Haas and Carol Powers, holding signs reading “Derelict eyesore in the heart of Bantam” “Fight the blight! Bantam Strong!” and “Buy this property. Call Sullivans” with the phone number.

Sage, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said she was there as a citizen, not a board representative.

Sage said the interior of Dream House is her biggest concern. She wants the couple to allow the fire marshal to inspect the roof and the walls, and claims there is mold, that the roof is falling down and that the porch is rotting. “It’s a beautiful house,” she said. “But it’s a hazard. It’s a safety concern.”

The owners of Dream House, John and Teresa Sullivan, watched the protest from their front porch. The couple recently returned from a trip to Italy with students from Connecticut Academy for the Arts, the non-profit art school they run in Torrington, and said they were surprised to hear about the protest. The grass was high, and they spent Tuesday cutting it, planting flowers and sprucing things up for the holiday weekend.

“They’re only doing that because we’re here,” Sage said.

“They’re never here,” Haas said. “They’re only doing all this because (the protest) was in the newspaper.”

In spite of the Sullivans’ efforts to clean up the yard, Sage was unimpressed. “It’s not the yard, it’s the structure,” she repeated. “That’s what I’m worried about.”

The group had several verbal exchanges with Teresa Sullivan, who brought a tray of cookies and cold drinks to the edge of her property for the protesters.

“I’m trying to talk to them, but they’re just here to embarrass me and themselves,” she said. “They’re mean and their behavior is ugly.”

“Is this how you treat neighbors?” John Sullivan said.

The Sullivans said they plan to open Dream House periodically for special sales and events, and planned to do so this weekend. Now Teresa Sullivan isn’t sure she should allow people inside. “I can’t have people walking in and out, finding things wrong,” she said. “That’s all (the protesters) want to do.”

She said every sale from Dream House will go to CAFTA from now on. “The last (sales transaction I had) was last month, and that money is going to CAFTA. I want to help our students, our kids. We have plans for Dream House and we will continue to run it here. We own this house and the taxes are paid.”

“If these people had just come to me, to us, and asked us what we were doing at Dream House, we would have explained it to them,” she said. “I”m not that hard to reach. The phone number is on our back door.”

Sage has filed two blight applications against the Sullivans and Patterson Oil. The applications ask borough officials to pursue the application’s concerns about each property.

Teresa Sullivan said she spoke with Borough Warden Richard Sheldon last week. “He said, just get the grass cut,” she said. “He didn’t have any other problem.”

Connecticut Media Group