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Amityville plans hearing on code amendment for 2-family homes

Amityville Village Hall is seen on Feb. 25,

Amityville Village Hall is seen on Feb. 25, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Village of Amityville officials will hold a Feb. 26 public hearing on a proposed amendment to its two-family house code.

The amendment would nullify a 2015 change to village code that requires that existing two-family homes be owner-occupied to be renewed and stipulates that if there is a change in ownership, that the new owners get a use variance. Since 2010, all new two-family homes must have a use variance.

For decades, two-family homes have been renewed as special exceptions. Special exceptions come with expiration dates ranging from one to three years, at which time the properties are reviewed by the village’s zoning board of appeals. Public hearings are held and neighbors with complaints about the properties can be heard. A use variance — which village officials said comes with strict requirements that are difficult to meet — does not require such reviews and stays with the property even with a change in ownership.

The village has 48 two-family homes with special exceptions, of which more than a dozen have been approved as such for more than 30 years.

On Feb. 6, ZBA chairman Richard Ubert sent a letter to trustees stating that the 2015 change “has become a challenge” for the board for two-family homes that are changing ownership. If denied a use variance, he said, the home loses value as it becomes a single-family home and construction modifications must be made by the buyer.

Ubert said also that use variances “limit the control” the village has on two-family homes since they don’t come up for regular review.

At a work session earlier this month, Trustee Nick LaLota spoke out in opposition to the proposed amendment, saying any problems with use variance homes could be addressed by village police and code enforcement.

Village attorney Bruce Kennedy said he was worried that the 2015 change leaves the village vulnerable to lawsuits.

“I’m afraid that we have people who could potentially sue the village claiming that their property values have been adversely affected as a result of this change to the law,” Kennedy said.

“I don’t think that we should just cave because we might get sued,” LaLota said. “We’re here to implement laws that are good for property values . . . I don’t think now’s the time to retreat.”

The hearing is at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 21 Ireland Place.

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