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Town Board seeks solution to projects without permits

The Town Board is wrestling with what to do with applicants who seek required permits for changes on their property after the changes have been completed.

The issue came up at the Feb. 28 Town Board meeting during a reconvened public meeting affecting a property owner who said the work had been done by a former owner, and the current applicant didn’t know it was illegal until after the purchase of the property had been made.

Others simply have told the Town Board — or in some cases, Building Department personnel — they didn’t know the work they did required a permit.

Town Board members, during the Feb. 28 hearing, said they worry that it has become too easy for people to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

One way to avoid people buying property that has been illegally changed by a previous owner could be to require a new certificate of occupancy for the purchasers who would immediately be notified if the premises have been altered, Senior Building Inspector Reed Karen said.

Further discussion took place at Tuesday’s Town Board work session, relating to the current pending application for a special permit from principals of property at 149 North Ram Island Road.

At the Feb. 28 public hearing, owner Karen Hoeg said the work on the upper floor was completed before the house was purchased and she didn’t know it was done illegally. She is seeking to bring it into compliance and to do work in the basement area, for which she would need a special permit.

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said the law stipulates that a new owner inherits violations. The Town Board could decide to grant the permit if members are inclined to think they would have done so had the permit process been properly permitted.

They can reject the application if they feel otherwise, or they can accept it with conditions they decide are appropriate.

Councilwoman Meg Larsen said people hire contractors assuming contractors know the law. Plans call for meeting with Building Department personnel this week before moving forward with the North Ram Island Road application.

Town Board members said they should address in a work session the over-arching issue of how to stop problems like this from proliferating.