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North Hempstead hearings set on building amnesty program

North Hempstead lawmakers have set hearings to extend an amnesty program designed so building department applicants are up to code without facing steep penalties.

The law extends a suspension of punishing fees usually associated with unpermitted work: four times the regular building department fee. A temporary reconciliation program was put in place in July 2012 for applicants of building and plumbing permits seeking to "maintain" unauthorized improvements that would normally face the penalty, and ends this Dec. 31. Instead, residents pay the regular building department rate.

North Hempstead lawmakers floated two proposals -- one by board member Anna Kaplan, a Democrat, extending the permit for one year; another by Angelo Ferrara and Dina De Giorgio, the board's two Republicans, extending the permit for two years. The board set public hearings for both proposals for Jan. 7. "Prior to this legislation, you not only had to pay the fee, you had to pay four times the penalty," Ferrara said. "This puts a moratorium on the penalty."

The board members, in addressing a resident's question, said, if implemented, creating awareness of the amnesty program will be key.

Anna Kaplan and the interim supervisor, John Riordan, voted against a hearing for the two-year proposal, saying a second measure was redundant; De Giorgio said having two resolutions allows board members a chance "to work it out among ourselves."

After a corruption scandal in 2007, the town building department reformed practices and came down harshly on violations. But residents and business members have complained of hardship and delays in applicant filings and permit issuances, which led to the original amnesty program.

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