The Oyster Bay Town Board on Tuesday passed an amnesty program to allow residential property owners to legalize work that was done without a building permit.
Starting as soon as next week, the program will take effect upon the local law’s filing with the New York Secretary of State’s office and will run through Dec. 31.
The program will also allow residents to renew expired town permits, such as for electrical or plumbing work, on a sliding scale of up to $200. There is no time limit on how long ago the permit expired — even if it was decades ago — to be eligible to renew it under the amnesty, spokesman Brian Devine said.
Councilman Chris Coschignano, who spearheaded the initiative, which was originally proposed to begin July 1, said there was a demand to get started right away.
“The urgency is there,” Coschignano said.
Currently, a residential property owner seeking to legalize construction or alterations that required a permit carries a penalty calculated as triple the cost of the permit. Under the amnesty program that fee would be waived.
Several board members and public speakers during a hearing said the program needs to include a public education component.
“Some people may not even be aware that they are in violation,” Supervisor John Venditto said. He suggested sending out mailings or brochures to residents.
Dona Malter, a real estate agent in Syosset, testified that the problem of unpermitted work comes up when people trying to sell their homes discover they may owe fines.
“Most people are unaware that they need compliance for certain items,” Malter said. The problem is acute with her senior clients, she added.
“The problem that we will face with them is that they thought they complied because they hired a licensed company and yet there was never a town inspection and finalization of” a certificate of occupancy, Malter said.
The problem of people not knowing whether a structure is legal is something that came up for Hicksville resident Paul Molinari. He said when he bought his house from his father he discovered the garage, built in 1950, didn’t have a certificate of occupancy.
“I had to reopen that 1950 permit and get the C.O. on it,” Molinari said.
Hicksville resident Margaret Eaton, 62, said the town should create an-easy-to-use online portal so people can find out what they need to know about their property without having to call the department of planning and development.
“It has to be very transparent and very easy for someone to go to,” Eaton said.