Trustees will talk housing safety issues when they meet tonight, four days after the latest major fire in Port Chester.
Tonight's discussion was on the table before the fire made headlines. Village Republicans have been pushing for a new Certificate of Occupancy law, and the discussion was scheduled as an extension of earlier talks about the proposed law.
Under current law, homes zoned for three or more families are scheduled for regular inspections, along with commercial properties. But some trustees say that's not enough -- several recent fires, including last week's blaze on Olivia St., occured in homes that were listed as dwellings for two families or less.
With landlords illegally converting basements, attics, porches and other areas into apartments, some trustees say the existing law makes it easier for negligent landlords to avoid routine inspections.
There have been no deaths despite six major fires over the past year, a fact most attribute to fast fire department responses -- and luck.
"We're really playing with fate and we've been very lucky," said Trustee Bart Didden, who is leading efforts to tighten the village's Certificate of Occupancy law.
The proposed law would require a new Certificate of Occupancy (and inspection) each time a property changes hands in Port Chester. But it's been opposed, most notably by Mayor Dennis Pilla and the Port Chester/Rye Bar Association.
Pilla said the proposed law may be too restrictive, discouraging transactions and hurting the local economy. And lawyers have complained about bottlenecks since Port Chester reformed its building and code departments, as staff enforce more rigorous guidelines.
Anthony Gioffre is president of the Port Chester/Rye Bar Association and said he was representing some 50 attorneys when he complained to the board this summer.
"Brokers are telling prospective residents, 'You know what? Go to a different community,'" Gioffre told trustees. "Quite frankly, that's a very sad state of affairs."
Also on tonight's agenda: An update on the United Hospital property, which is owned by Starwood Capital. With the hospital long-abandoned, the building showing signs of age and the previously-immaculate landscaping now overgrown and wild, residents and local leaders see the property as another eyesore in the village. But previous proposals for the site didn't sit well with trustees, who are wary of residential development adding more children to overcrowded schools, and commercial development adding more traffic to an already-congested corridor.
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