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Hempstead may waive fines for homeowners who lacked permits

Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino announces a building

Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino announces a building permit amnesty program on Jan. 9 for residents who have already made improvements to their homes without a permit. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday will consider waiving post-construction building permit fines as part of a 120-day amnesty program, the same day officials in Oyster Bay are considering extending an amnesty program that expired in December.

Supervisor Anthony Santino and council members Dorothy Goosby, Gary Hudes and Anthony D’Esposito introduced the program at a Monday news conference in Town Hall. If the board approves the measure at its meeting on Tuesday, the amnesty will be in effect Jan. 11 through May 9.

Currently, if residents did not get permits for construction work on their homes, they receive a “maintain permit” that carries a penalty that is twice the amount of a pre-construction permit. There were about 5,300 residential maintain permits granted in 2016. The permit fees, and subsequently the fines, depend on the cost of the work done.

The amnesty program would waive those extra fees and could save homeowners more than $1,500, Santino said.

“There will be no penalty charges,” he said.

The supervisor said about 40 percent of residential construction permits processed by the town’s building department are maintain permits.

While the town gets extra money from the fees, Santino said many people never file for maintain permits unless they’re going to sell a house and can’t because the work was never properly permitted.

“This is revenue that’s out there that we’re not likely to get,” Santino said. “Who knows when we would even be able to collect it going forward?”

Goosby and D’Esposito stressed safety in their remarks on Monday.

“Unpermitted work can be devastating to our first responders,” said D’Esposito, who is a former Island Park fire chief.

Hudes said his office fields a lot of calls from seniors looking to downsize and can’t sell their homes because of unpermitted work. He suggested that residents take advantage of the amnesty program and get the maintain permits as spring approaches. The season is historically the best time to sell a home.

For more information, contact the building department at 516-538-8500.

In Oyster Bay, the town board plans to hold a hearing and vote Tuesday on extending its residential building permit amnesty program. The program, which expired at the end of 2016, also waived penalties for homeowners seeking to legalize structures that were built without the proper permits. Those penalties are triple the regular fee for construction permits, which vary depending on the cost of construction.

Town officials said last year that applications to legalize existing structures during the first five months of the amnesty program had increased from 435 to 599 during the same period in 2015. The proposed extension is expected to go through June.

With Ted Phillips

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