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Oyster Bay to consider extending residential permit amnesty

Oyster Bay Town Board member Joseph Pinto at

Oyster Bay Town Board member Joseph Pinto at Town Hall on July 21, 2015. He says the increase in applications filed with the town to legalize existing structures is due to the amnesty program. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Oyster Bay Town Board will consider extending its residential building permit amnesty program for an additional six months, Town Board member Joseph Pinto said.

Town officials said the program, which expires at the end of this year, has been successful in increasing the number of property owners who seek to legalize structures or construction that were built without proper permits.

“It’s working,” Pinto said. “It’s helping the residents.”

The number of applications filed with the town Department of Planning and Development to legalize existing structures from June 7, when the board approved the amnesty, through Nov. 30 has increased to 599 from 435 during the same period last year, town officials said.

Pinto attributed the applications increase — 37 percent — to the amnesty program that was spearheaded by Councilman Christopher Coschignano, with whom he said he was working on the extension, which could be voted on at the Dec. 13 board meeting.

The amnesty waives the penalties on legalizing existing structures, which are triple the regular fee for a building permit. The cost of building permits are based on the cost of construction.

Acting commissioner of planning and development Timothy Zike said his office has received inquiries from property owners about whether they needed permits for existing work done on their properties. Zike said residents seeking to take advantage of the amnesty have submitted applications for a “wide array of items.”

“It could be something as simple as an air conditioner, like central air,” Zike said. Or people “coming to do their fence. Could be a pool. Could be a deck. It could be a whole one-story addition. It’s a wide spectrum of the items they’re coming in to legalize.”

Although some properties may have problems that should have been identified by title companies when a homeowner bought or refinanced a house but weren’t, Zike said, “Ultimately the property owner is responsible for everything on the property.”

The department is now taking applications at both its main office at the Oyster Bay Town Hall complex and at its satellite office that opened last week at the town’s Massapequa office at 977 Hicksville Rd.

Revenue has also increased at the department in the first 11 months of the year — to $7.1 million in 2016 from $5.8 million during the same period in 2015, town officials said.

Zike attributed the increased revenue more to a greater number of commercial permit applications being filed than to residents seeking amnesty.

“We’ve seen over the past 10, 11 months a surge in commercial development and redevelopment and that’s mostly what I would attribute that to,” Zike said.

Zike said he believed the rise in commercial projects was due to improved economic conditions.

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