UPDATE: The Port Chester village Board of Trustees on Monday night decided to extend the village's building violations amnesty program for four months.
With less than a month to go for property owners to apply for Port Chester's violations amnesty program, members of the village Board of Trustees are scheduled tonight to discuss whether the program should be extended.
The discussion comes after last week's "Town Hall" style meeting that attracted about 85 people for a question-and-answer session about the anmesty program, which is designed to help local property owners clear up legal issues related to their properties. To be eligible for the program, which includes an expedited review process and waives penalties and fines, property owners must apply by Dec. 31.
With amnesty, property owners have 18 months to correct paperwork problems and other issues related to their properties. Tonight's meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Port Chester Village Court on North Main Street.
If you could not attend the amnesty meeting, you view the sesson online by clicking here: http://www.portchesterny.com/Pages/PortChesterNY_Webdocs/videoarchive
Concerns, questions raised at the meeting:
- A number of residents expressed some frustration due to the fact that their homes were purchased with the unlawful work completed by the prior owners.
- There were concerns about the inherent costs associated with obtaining compliance.
- There were concerns over “pre-date” letters that were issued either erroneously or incorrectly.
- Many owners were apparently told that Building Department records were destroyed by previous building department staff.
- Some owners indicated that former building inspectors have approved projects verbally or they were told that it was "no problem."
- There were questions as to how accurate the village documents were and how far records go back.
- Some were concerned that the village was doing this to raise money.
- Most were very upset with what happened in the past and are having a hard time with accepting enforcement.
- Others were concerned that if they completed a required records search and it indicated that they were in violation, that the Building Department or Code Enforcement would prosecute them or send them to court.
- Others were relieved that the village finally took the necessary steps that were long needed. Several residents came to the dais after the meeting to show their support and to commend the village and all departments for its commitment toward compliance.
- Many residents complimented the village staff on their professionalism, courteousness and assisting them with obtaining compliance. Many residents have experienced the “new” staff and were elated with the professionalism, courteousness and commitment.
Port Chester Village Manager Chris Steers said the amnesty program — which covers residential properties, multi-family dwellings and commercial properties — is especially beneficial for residents who unwittingly purchased properties with violations. As for an extension of the amnesty, Steers says that's up to the village Board of Trustees.
"To the extent that my opinion matters, my only concern would be the perception that the scofflaws who apparently benefitted from the discrepancies of the past would be rewarded for past wrongs," Steers said. "An extension may encourage this and those applicants more than it would encourage the targeted home owners’ to take advantage of the program. Those who have come forward to date are trying to do the right thing, trying work with the village, and trying to move forward. There are still 30 days in which applications will continue to be accepted; those who want to do the right thing are encouraged to apply, the village will continue to work with them."