Update, 7 p.m. The Landmark Condominium Association received the Permanent Certificate of Occupancy that owners requested at the Aug. 5 Board of Trustee meeting on Aug. 14 around 5 p.m. The news comes as a great relief to condo owners who have been unable to sell or refinance without the CO. Several have lost sales and opportunities to buy new homes for more than a year because of the lack of CO.
Owners told the board they have been working to come into compliance since they were first told the building CO was invalid last summer, but that the village was unclear and confusing with its demands. While the Association was working to fill village requirements for the new certificate, the village issued them a court summons for code violations this June. Now that many of the issues have apparently been resolved, it is unclear how the permanent certificate may affect the court case.
The now issued permanent CO does not include any of the laundry facilities located within the building or the pool. A letter from Building Inspector Peter J. Miley, Director of Code Enforcement to the Landmark Condo Association reads: "The laundry facility is still in violation of the code and requires engineering and a separate building permit application; a separate CO will be issued upon completion."
The letter also states that fire safety systems must be inspected annually by certified professionals and it is the building's responsibility to arrange for these inspections and to obtain pertinent documents.
Original Article, posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 15: Landmark condominium owner Frank Troha told the Port Chester Board of Trustees that he has suffered health problems due to a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) that the Building Department is "holding hostage," he said. The lack of CO kept Troha from being able to close on the sale of his condo twice in the last year and has cost him opportunities to buy homes he found in Connecticut, he told the Board of Trustees at last week's meeting.
Other condo owners
spoke at the podium to explain that the CO situation there has cost them thousands of dollars, the ability to move to senior
housing communities and to move closer to family they need to care for, and has caused daily headaches and frustrations.
Over the last two to three years since the Building Department has cracked down on code enforcement, the Landmark was deemed to lack its occupancy certificate, which lenders and buyers require in sales and refinancing. Even though some individual unit owners have a valid CO, they cannot sell or refinance without a valid building CO.
Landmark owners say they have been trying to come up to code, spending about $100,000 over the last several months in the process, but the building department has been unclear about what work needed to be done and has been generally insensitive. The group of owners asked the Board of Trustees to get the building department to better communicate with their Board of Directors and find a way to expedite the process of having a valid CO issued.
Village Manager Chris Steers responded, saying that the building department is working to make sure the building is completely up to code for safety reasons because it has serious “life threatening” violations. He said village staff has been trying to go above and beyond working with the condos Board of Directors to expedite the process but the board has not yet come into compliance.
“The only reason why we are enforcing the code is to make sure someone doesn’t die in that building,” Steers said, sparking uproar from the crowd who then spoke out to defend the building, explaining it is one of the nicest buildings in Port Chester. The Landmark, a converted Lifesavers Factory, is marketed as a luxury doorman building.
“Our stairwells are probably cleaner than most of the lobbies in Port Chester buildings,” one of the owners said.
While the Landmark has had electricians, plumbers and other contractors work on the building to comply with building department requests, the village issued the Landmark board a court summons for failure to come up to code, the owners said, calling the move insensitive.
Steers said that village staff are compassionate, but that the Landmark was issued the summons because the “building department got to a level of frustration because of a lack of progress with expedited process moving it forward,” and emphasized that the Landmark had a lot of work done without permits in the past and serious violations. He also claimed the building had not tested its fire sprinkling system in years and had a long list of other violations.
“What he is saying is absolutely ridiculous,” Landmark board member Enzo Pizzamente called out. “We work 24 hours a day every day (to come into compliance). I am insulted.”
Paula Cortona, a Keller Williams real estate agent who handles Landmark properties, said there is a lack of communication and constantly changing requirements.
“This punch list continues to change, it is a moving target,” she said. The “punch list” is the building department’s list of items that must be brought up to code in order to pass inspection. “Every time an inspection is done something else comes on the list,” she said.
Mayor Pagano thanked the residents for speaking out about their frustrations and told them he understands they are going through some pain, “but by God, you will know the building is safe and so are the units” once they get through the process.
The owners hope that their plea to the board for help will expedite their new CO as soon as possible.
Watch the full meeting here.