Westbury proposal targets illegal housing

The intersection of Post and Maple Avenues in The intersection of Post and Maple Avenues in the Village of Westbury. (Sept. 19, 2013) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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A Westbury plan to combat what officials say is a swath of illegal housing drew impassioned commentary at a recent community forum.

The proposal, unveiled by Mayor Peter Cavallaro, seeks to ban street parking -- from 2 to 6 a.m. -- in village areas where illegal housing is prevalent and the rules are feasible to enforce, he said.

At a packed Village Hall Thursday night, some residents argued the proposal is essential for the village to prosper, while others worried the regulations would lead to parking headaches.

Cavallaro described the restrictions, covering the central portion of the village, as "another tool in our arsenal" to dispel illegal housing, such as accessory apartments and rentals where that is not permitted.

He could not provide specific numbers on illegal housing but said there's plenty of anecdotal evidence of the problem.

In recent years, he said, the village has heightened code enforcement, with more housing sweeps and search warrants issued to check for offenses. Cavallaro said the plan is flexible, and the draft makes exceptions for "hardship" cases, such as residents who are first responders, those with handicaps, or with small or no driveways.

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The draft of the law forbids exceptions for commercially licensed vehicles; and vehicles with unanswered violations.

Some residents saw promise in the proposal, but fretted about consequences.

Martha Cahill, a village resident for more than 30 years, said the measure was "too broad of a stroke."

Resident Reeva Brooks said the regulation might force her son into a hotel when he visits, "because where is he going to put his car?"

Patrick Young, 55, asked about exceptions for spontaneous overnight guests -- "an exemption for passion" -- securing chuckles from the crowd.

Cavallaro said those issues were not worked out, but he did not believe a "broad" approach was wise, adding that selecting streets in the central district made more sense.

"We're looking to do a surgical strike by applying this measure to the area where it's most needed," he said.

Another meeting for residents is scheduled for Oct. 1.

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When Brooks cautioned it would be hard to sell her home given new restrictions, another resident said home values are already falling.

Gregory Lewis, 56, echoed that and the board's sentiments -- saying he feared inaction.

"If we don't do something about this illegal housing now, you are going to have a nightmare in this village in the next 10 years."

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