The Mastic Beach Village trustees are looking to quadruple penalties on owners of long-blighted houses to $10,000 per year, fines that would be attached to the property's tax bill if left unpaid.
Board members at their regular meeting on Tuesday set a Sept. 8 public hearing on increasing the fine -- now $2,500 -- for each year until the houses are brought up to village code standards.
"We need a weapon to fight against blighted homes," Mastic Beach Deputy Mayor Bruce Summa said Wednesday about his proposal to increase the fines to $10,000.
"It's a hardship on the people," he said of living near abandoned or deteriorating properties.
Homes are added to the village blighted building registry once they accumulate 100 points in code violations. Violations are assigned various point values based on their severity. Fifty points are assigned for "interfering with the neighborhood" -- such as bringing blight to a neighborhood, Summa said, with additional points added for faulty gutters, yard debris and other issues.
Summa said most abandoned village homes usually reach between 150 and 200 points after being inspected.
Once a home is added to the registry, the $2,500 fee is assessed under a village law that went into effect last year.
The property owner -- or financial institution that holds the mortgage of abandoned properties -- is given 30 days to respond before the property is listed in the registry.
Mayor Maura Spery said that while she agrees the board should continue discussing a penalty increase, quadrupling the fines may be excessive.
A Newsday and News 12 investigation found that Long Island municipalities in 2014 spent more than $3.2 million to maintain vacant homes that had fallen into disrepair.
The Mastic Beach blight registry law is based on Huntington Town's system, which imposes fines on blighted properties until their owners clean them up.
Once a property is added to Huntington's blight list, an annual fee is attached to the property's town tax bill -- $5,000 for commercial properties and $2,500 for residential -- until the issues are addressed.
Huntington Town also is considering a proposal made last month to charge owners a fee when the town investigates whether a property is vacant.
Brookhaven Town also maintains a vacant-home registry. It requires property owners to register buildings no more than one month after they have been vacant and pay a $100 registration fee. Failure to comply results in a fine of $1,000 to $15,000.
Brookhaven also attaches a lien on the homes and adds fines for maintenance work such as cutting grass and trimming trees.