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Town Board Report: Properties without certificates of occupancy discussed

Courtesy Photo Some property owners will soon be filing paper work with the town.

The Town Board is working to bring into compliance an undisclosed number of projects that were completed without receiving certificates of occupancy (CO).

A number of them were discovered by Fire Marshal Arthur Bloom, who also functions as a code enforcement officer. He told the Town Board at its Tuesday work session that some of the construction projects dated back to a dozen years ago but were never issued a CO.

That would be critical for owners who want to sell their properties, since the lack of a CO would show up in the course of a search for buyers to obtain a clear title. It could also affect a property owner’s insurance. If, for example, the owner had a pool installed and there was no CO, that person’s insurance company could refuse to pay a claim if there was an accident at the pool.

At issue for the Town Board is whether there should be any cost to property owners to obtain a CO for such projects.

Many people don’t know how the process works, Councilman Paul Shepherd said. Contractors come in and seemingly take care of everything, but when their work is done, they fail to file for the CO and leave town without the owner realizing that the project isn’t complete.

The cost of a building permit is based on the specific projects with more complex plans carrying higher fees. When the project is complete, the owner or contractor must apply for a certificate of occupancy and there’s no additional fee if only one walk-through by an inspector is necessary to approve the application.

But if there’s a need for more than one walk-through to clear the property to receive a certificate of occupancy, each subsequent walk-through would incur a $75 fee.

Town Board members don’t want to penalize these property owners who likely had no idea they lacked a CO, but do want to account for time spent inspecting the property and handling paper work.

They are leaning toward sending notices to those owners whose properties lack a CO and giving them 90 days to cure the situation. That could incur the low fee for inspection and paper work. But neglecting the notices could result in a fine or penalty no less than $500 and no more than $2,000 or 15 days in jail, or both, for each and every violation.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. will write a draft of legislation aimed at creating a means for properties to be brought into compliance at either a low or no cost to applicants.

Supervisor Gary Gerth told the board that Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) informed him that the Army Corps of Engineers is putting together its 2020 budget and is considering if it can include protecting Reel Point for action next year.

Not to do so would mean more money would have to continue to be spent on dredging to maintain the Point so work done to date wouldn’t be lost, Councilman Jim Colligan said.

In other business, the Town Board:
• Reviewed policies affecting health insurance for retirees and the state Personal Family Leave program. Unresolved is whether a couple who both work for the town could both be allowed to take Personal Family Leave together. Mr. Colligan suggested that it should depend on the circumstances for the leave request.
• Heard a request from Kia Pedersen to encourage the presence of red foxes on the Island to kill mice she blames for increasing ticks. Ms. Pedersen also asked the Board to look at traffic on Cartwright Road and Route 114, which is threatening bicycle riders because of speed.