Oyster Bay residential property owners who made additions or alterations to their property without the proper permits may be able to legalize the work under an amnesty being considered by the town board.
The town plans to hold a public hearing on June 7 to amend the town’s local law to allow the amnesty program that would run from July 1 through Dec. 31.
Councilman Chris Coschignano, who spearheaded the measure, said residents who might have had concerns about the financial or legal ramifications of getting past work legalized should come forward during the amnesty period, pending town board approval.
“It’s an opportunity for them to just pay the regular fees and have their applications processed and allow them to move forward with either their building projects or finalize their building projects,” Coschignano said.
Amnesty can come with costs. When North Hempstead offered an amnesty to homeowners that waived fees for repairing code violations, the town lost $1.2 million in revenue in 2014, officials said.
In Oyster Bay, the town requires building permits for many alterations and additions to houses such as interior changes, installation of swimming pools with a depth of 18 inches or more, cabanas, fences more than 4 feet in height, free-standing air conditioners, raised decks above a certain height, and demolition.
The town doesn’t appear to publish on its website a fee schedule for building permits. When a property owner tries to sell his or her property, legalizing an existing structure costs triple the regular permit fee.
Property owners who are unsure about whether all the proper paperwork was filed for existing structures can check with the Department of Planning and Development.
“It is a good time for people to use the amnesty period to check their building department files; the department will help them,” Coschignano said.
Last year the town issued 4,925 building permits.
The department has had no commissioner since Frederick Ippolito was forced out after his felony plea to income tax evasion in January. Currently the department is run by two deputies, and Town Supervisor John Venditto has said there is no plan to replace him.
Coschignano said he wants the department to be less litigious in its code enforcement than it has been. When shown 11 weeks of court calendars by Newsday at the Fourth District Court in Hempstead where 85 out of 144 dockets involved misdemeanor charges for building without a permit, he said he wants code enforcement to issue more warnings and only issue summonses as a last resort.
“I would like to see less cases,” Coschignano said.