Northport officials want to change the village building code to issue fines instead of misdemeanor citations to people who build or make property alterations without a permit.
The fines could be as much as $1,000 per offense.
"It came to our attention that the village could only cite somebody . . . with a misdemeanor," village attorney Stuart Besen said. "It's kind of ridiculous to serve them with a misdemeanor." The proposed code change would result in violations for those types of issues, he said.
If trustees approve the code change, the building department would still have discretion to issue a misdemeanor under the state building and fire code for more egregious violations. But in many cases, they do not believe criminal charges are appropriate, officials said.
"This way, everybody that gets charged with . . . violations doesn't have to get a lawyer and it's not a criminal offense," village Administrator Tim Brojer said.
The change also would make Northport more consistent with many other small municipalities on Long Island, which often treat such issues as violations, he said.
"It's uncommon to have it be a misdemeanor," Brojer said.
Village officials said they want to be able to work directly with property owners to help resolve minor violations quickly. They did not immediately have information on how many code misdemeanors have been issued in the past year.
The change would affect residences and businesses. Each day a violation continues is considered a separate offense.
Besen said the village officials would make a recommendation before the village court on how much the fine should be and the final figure would be at the discretion of the court.
"The village is looking for compliance. It is not looking to fine people," Besen said.
The proposed change will be the subject of a public hearing at Monday's 6 p.m. village board meeting.