An Asharoken Village judge who installed a windmill in his yard months ago without municipal approval said he is going to take the structure down.
Mark Kleczka put up the wind turbine in September without obtaining a permit. Some residents complained, arguing that the judge was getting special treatment while they waited months for approval of their own projects.
"I think there is a perception issue," said resident Rob Holmes. "And a village official -- in this case a judge -- is held to a higher standard, not a lower one."
Asharoken issued Kleczka a notice of violation in October. He then applied for a permit and it was rejected because his application was incomplete. He has been working through the complex appeal process since then.
Kleczka said Monday that he would take down the windmill this week because he never intended for the structure to remain permanently in his yard, and that the appeals process has been overly complex. Kleczka said the decision wasn't in response to pressure from village residents.
"The only reason we stopped is it's time to come down," he said. "It's outlived its purpose."
Kleczka is the co-founder of a company specializing in renewable energy, including wind turbines.
According to Asharoken Village code, a permit is required for new structures on residential property. The code also states violations are punishable with a fine of up to $250 for each offense, with each day the violation continues considered a separate offense. But Mayor Greg Letica said those fines only kick in after a resident fails to respond to the first notice of violation.
Kleczka hasn't been fined during the roughly three months the windmill has stood.
Letica said Kleczka -- who volunteers as the village judge -- has been treated the same as any other resident.
"This is Asharoken; we give our residents the time to do what they need to do," Letica said after a Dec. 2 village board meeting during which residents asked why the structure was still standing and whether the judge would face a fine.
Kleczka said he never anticipated residents would react negatively to his effort to bring renewable energy to the area. He said he put up the windmill to give villagers a chance to see what he envisioned for a permanent installation on his roof.
Kleczka said other residents have been given the same amount of time to respond to a violation notice.
"I got treated the same as everybody else," Kleczka said. "If it turned into a violation, which could happen shortly if I didn't take it down, it would be a problem. There's no different treatment because I'm the judge."