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[UPDATE] Should Port Chester Property Amnesty Program Be Extended?

Village Board of Trustees set to discuss program at tonight's meeting.

UPDATE: The Port Chester village Board of Trustees on Monday night decided to extend the village's building violations amnesty program for four months.

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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."

Robski48 December 03, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Yes they should. After watching the video of the meeting, how can you have people sign up, possibly do all the work to get a CO, then they find your CO? Mr. Miley stated they are still finding documents they didn't know they had. Will the Village reimburse the homeowner for the unnecessary work or render the old CO no good to cover themselves?
Bart Didden December 04, 2012 at 01:58 PM
@ Robski48, there is no such thing as unnecessary work, because any work that is needed is because there is a violation found after an inspection. Violations are issued based on unsafe conditions, and no one should live in unsafe conditions.
Robski48 December 04, 2012 at 02:38 PM
If I pay for the amnesty (cost). I reopen my original permit (cost). Then you say I have no CO, I have to schedule inspections. First by the code or building dept to look for violations. Just say, no violations. Then I schedule the electrical inspection (cost), even though my walls have been sheet rocked for 50 years, no violations. Then I apply for a CO and get it (cost). On top of that, you already have the plans and survey from when house was built, and I need no variances. Then you find a box with my CO. Now, I have done all that work, with no violations, incurred all those cost and it is now all for nothing. My point is until you have exhausted all places to look for these documents and you have gone all through the documents, it should be extended. Mr Miley himself stated at the meeting that they are still finding boxes of documents and still don't know what is in the boxes. Just a point to ponder. Will the village pay to reimburse the homeowner for the unnecessary cost?
William Demarest (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 05:00 PM
The Port Chester village Board of Trustees has decided to extend the building violations amnesty program for 4 months.
Camille Harris December 05, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Good for them! The board of trustees are showing themselves to be practical leaders, solving a problem that has emerged across the country. Some cities will have to go to the ballot to solve this problem because their own cities lack leadership or political will.
FJT January 22, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Even at this late date, I believe most home owners don't understand what the amnesty program is because, after all, amnesty implies you somehow broke the law -- and most home owners think they've been playing by the rules all along. I think most home owners will learn about amnesty the hard way. That is, when they attempt to sell or refinance their home, they will be told the Certificate of Occupancy that was in place for their home for decades is suddenly no longer valid. Many real estate deals have fallen through because buyers couldn't wait the many months it's taken for sellers to get their new COs -- and many home owners today remain in a seemingly eternal limbo, owning homes they can neither sell nor refinance because it can take a very, very long time to get a new CO, despite the village's best efforts. So, who does this program benefit anyway? I do know that people's lives are being turned upside down by the blanket revocation of COs. Perhaps the BOT and mayor who opened this Pandora's box need to hear from home owners. Personally, extending the amnesty program is not the issue. The ill-advised blanket revocation of COs (allegedly due to misdeeds of village officials many years ago) and the current treatment of innocent home owners (forced to pay for the former officials' misdeeds) IS the heart of the matter. In a sense, all home owners have been declared guilty of building code violations and must prove their innocence. How can that even be allowed in the USA?
FJT March 04, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Robski48, as time goes on more and more homeowners will discover what you and I have discovered. In some cases, homeowners -- who already have their backs to the wall financially -- may end up being foreclosed upon or giving their homes away at bargain-basement prices because of this program that presumes every homeowner guilty of some sort of code violation, and forces him or her to prove his innocence at his or her considerable expense -- which can be enough to cause a foreclosure in these recessionary times. This is so un-American it makes my blood boil. First, the village grants COs (for a fee) and then -- out of the blue -- essentially nullifies them, forcing anyone who wants to sell or refinance to pay yet again. There's a word for that.

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