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N. Hempstead building department could be revamped

More than two dozen architects, developers, building department officials and politicians gathered around a conference table Monday to discuss how to revamp the Town of North Hempstead’s building department.

The trick is finding that balance where building codes are enforced but residents don’t feel harassed, Supervisor Jon Kaiman said.

Kaiman said over the years, codes were left up to interpretation and at times regulations weren’t enforced similarly. After a 2007 corruption scandal led to five arrests and three convictions, the department was reformed.

New rules and procedures were created to ensure fair treatment of permit applicants. Still, there is room to make the process more user-friendly, the participants agreed.

“Where do we go from here?” Kaiman said, speaking about the permit process. “It’s intense. It’s strict. There are delays that make the private sector cringe.”

The discussion included creating a process to allow for administrative approval of minor discrepancies and making building department officials available to answer simple questions in advance of filing a plan.

“The key is communication and accessibility,” said Clifford Fetner, president of Jaco Builders in Hauppauge.

Also discussed were new ways to deal with homeowners who discover previous work was done illegally, thus stalling a permit request.

“Now we’re at the point where we think you have it,” said Richard M. Bivone, president of RMB Development Consultants in East Meadow and chairman of Long Island Business Council. “We think we have it. Now it needs to be fine-tuned for special instances.”

The group will continue to meet and Kaiman said he hopes the discussions will result in ways to transform the department.

Suggestions for procedures and rules will be fine-tuned at a conference in March or April.

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