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Info Session Tonight Provides Answers on Port Chester Amnesty Program

Program looks to help property owners resolve violations.

A "town hall" style meeting is set for tonight at the Port Chester Senior Center to provide answers to local residents on Port Chester's amnesty program designed to help property owners clear up building violations and related problems.

The amnesty, which began Oct. 1, runs until Dec. 31, when the last applications for the program will be accepted by Port Chester. Tonight's question-and-answer session on the program is set for 7 p.m. at the senior center, 222 Grace Church St., behind Village Hall.

Under the amnesty program, property owners will not be required to pay the normal fines associated with violations of local and state building laws. However, to be eligible for the amnesty, property owners must file applications and pay connected fees by the Dec. 31 deadline.

Those who enter the amnesty program benefit from:

- No fines

- No penalties

- Waived or reduced fees

- A streamlined process

- Free consultation with the village

Bart Didden November 27, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Even though the weather is not perfect, I can't stress the importance of this meeting for ALL property owners in the Village of Port Chester. I have been taking calls from many homeowners and I think this is the most compelling reason to file for the Amnesty program- If there were open building permits that we did not find in previous searches when you bought your home from previous owners, we WILL find them when you want to refinance or sell your property at a future date. The Amnesty Program waives all of the fines and penlites for open permits or violations found as part of the process for obtaining a new Certificate of Occupancy. To register for the program you must submit your application and a $70.00 search fee by December 31st with the Port Chester Building Department. Tonight the Building Inspector Peter Miley, Village Attorney Anthony Cerreto as well as myself will be on hand to explain the Program, answer all questions from the audience and answer all individual questions until everyone is satisfied. I hope to see you all there.
Robski48 November 27, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Bart, still waiting on the number of properties that have signed up to date. You stated you were going to get the number to everyone. Any luck?
Bart Didden November 27, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Sorry about that, others always seem to be asking for my time as well as this stuff. Over 60 have fully applied, over 200 more applications are out and the building inspector has been meeting with homeowners from the Landmark Building and we expect another 50 from there. I know of another 20 to 30 commercial building owners I have spoken to that are applying from Main Street. I suspect that we will have close to 10% signed up by the end of December. These will keep the building department busy for a while besides their usual case load.
William Demarest (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Here's the update on Amnesty from Village Manager Chris Steers: Applications completed and received: 63 Total Residential: 57 Total Multi-Family: 3 Total Commercial: 3
Robski48 November 27, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Bart and William, thank you for the numbers. My concern, as stated in a earlier post is coming through. The single family owner is not the problem as they are collateral damage. The real problem are the multi families and only three have signed up? Never going to tackle the overcrowding issue. This is only going "fluff" the numbers for Steers graphs. How are we going to deal with the overcrowding issue when they are spending their time dealing with the single families. Bart, the 50 from the landmark building are not the problem, and you know that, more wasted time, in my opinion, that could be sent on the real ( overcrowding and illegal apartment) issues.
Bart Didden November 27, 2012 at 10:43 PM
I understand your concern and your statement, but we have learned from the meetings we have had so far and the searches we have done. While this effort was to give property owners the ability to come back into compliance from illegal uses, it has also raised other issues. Open building permits. Because we are now scanning all of our records we are finding the issues caused by property owners, contractors and prior Village employees about open permits. So while we started as building compliance, we are now addressing permit compliance as well. Case in point. I bought my house in 2002, a contractor did an addition in 1975, that was two owners prior. When the searches were done in 2002, the Village did not have a system to find any open permits. Are there any, I don't know because I have not filed for Amnesty yet, but there could be. The Amnesty program gives me all the benefits and brings my property into compliance with not only Local but State Codes as well because of actions that happened while I was still living with my parents, on the other side of King St when I was still in Port Chester High School. This is why everyone should be in the Amnesty Program, because you just don't know and neither do I.
Robski48 November 27, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Point taken, but....open building permits are not going to lower taxes as ridding of illegal apartments and overcrowding will. Less apartments and people equals less school children and stress on village services. You are missing the point as you did at the last meeting when you used " village service impact fees" to buy a piece of property that needs to be maintained by the same understaffed village employees that the fee was created to compensate for. You didn't hired another DPW worker, fireman, policeman or provide for EMS, which it was negotiated for. You strained our resources more by taking a piece of property off the tax role and having our already understaffed workers tend to it. Shame on you guys. YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT, as usually. Enough said
Gregg Gregory November 27, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I am one of the property owners who has already applied for the Amnesty Program, and personally think that this is long overdue, and compliment the BOT and Bart specifically for implementing. Not only will it give you piece of mind that your property is in full compliance, but it relieves me from worrying about the day my adult children may have to liquidate my estate without hassle. Just having sold our parents home through the estate and going through some municipal hurdles, makes it even more important in my mind. I also believe that anyone selling their home to move will have a much easier time with this "clean bill of health" that prospective buyers will be looking for.. Its a win win for all. Yes I would like to see more of the multi family properties sign up for Amnesty, but as the old saying goes they will be "paying now, or paying much more later". Gregg Gregory Planning Commisioner
Bart Didden November 27, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Thanks Gregg, I could not (obviously) have said it better. As for Robski48 comment, I understand what your saying, but look at it this way, today everyone could be out of compliance, potentially, if 30% of the Village going through the Amnesty program, that just made to pool of potential abusers smaller! And Gregg got it right, they will pay later when there is no program. The piece of property you are referring to was purchased with DEDICATED funds that had to be used on parks. It was restricted, not making any worthwhile interest in the bank and there was an opportunity. If you can't see that then there is not much I can do to help you. Three new paid fireman hired last month, I guess you missed that one. Also letters of interest for new police offices went out last month and this month and some are going for the agility test next month, I guess you missed that also? Under the new leadership of Rocky Morabito, the DPW men look like they really like their jobs and they are doing a great job, so I don't know where you are going but I like our employees and I think they like working here, so the problem is? Oh yea, they just finished negotiating a new contract that they liked as well. I guess you missed that also?
Robski48 November 27, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Bart... Didn't miss the hiring of the firemen. Will not comment until I do research and see how many we're there when you took office and current, including the three. If there are more than prior to you taking office, I will give you credit. Ditto with the police, but will wait till you hire them first. Saying you are hiring and hiring are two different things. As I said in past, if you hire less than you got rid of, then it is no good. Regarding DPW, funny how you didn't mentioned you hired anyone there. I also question the "dedicated park funds" when your mayor stated the money came from negotiations by IDA leader Pagano for adding up services they, Kingsport, use and then compensating for the overuse. That was at the last board meeting in case you missed it as you text away on your phone. Regards
Aidan November 28, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Robski48 makes a good point ... one that needs to shake up local politicians. The original intent of all of this was to bring illegal housing and the various abuses into the light. The hope was make local housing safe ... and to make certain that these abuses would stop seeping into our municipal and educational costs. Now we're mired in all sorts of twisty stuff that seems to be impacting everyone but the very group the original initiative was designed to spotlight. In Robski's lingo, "YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT." I can't tell you how the general frustration level has soared in the village. We were led to believe that this effort was going to tackle one of the dominating aspects of life in the village: illegal housing and the costly fallout. Now the most unlikely folks have been sucked into a bureaucratic whirlpool ... and wondering' what the hell has happened. Of late, the BOT seems like a bumbling bunch ... unable to keep its focus and its promises. Folks who need to unload their property are shackled and those who mused about moving here are discouraged. All this in the midst of a comprehensive plan that's designed to move this village into the future. What contradictory messaging. Single family owners are being flogged ... and those that mock our housing regs are laughing their way to the bank. They're unscathed and delighted to see this political mayhem. Who are the fools?
Robski48 November 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Research was done, thanks to the village website. In the budget year, 09-10, before you were elected, Bart, the police numbered 62 and the firemen numbered 12. In the adopted budget for 12-13, the police numbered 58 ,with one retiring, making it 57 before 2013 and the fire numbered 11. Even if, big if, you hire 3 police, you are still 2 below the number prior to you and with the three hired firemen you total 11, 1 below number prior to you. Guess what, Kingsport, where the "village service impact fee" came from was there in 09, they pay this fee and we have less police, fire, DPW in 2012. Doesn't make sense, the numbers don't add up.
FJT December 02, 2012 at 06:27 PM
You wrote: "I also believe that anyone selling their home to move will have a much easier time with this 'clean bill of health' that prospective buyers will be looking for.. Its a win win for all." Up until this past spring, nobody I know of had a problem selling their home in Port Chester. I believe the problems with selling homes in Port Chester started with the blanket nullification of all COs. Perhaps if the village had focused on the actual offenders -- not the single-family and condo owners -- we wouldn't be seeing property values falling off a cliff here in PC (and it will only worsen over time as more property owners learn they must at bare minimum pay a fee -- and wait -- to prove they're worthy of a new CO, which is needed to sell or refinance). Sadly, the net was cast over ALL property owners, making us all "guilty until proven innocent" and bringing real estate transactions in the village to a halt for many months. The approach being taken by the BOT would have been praiseworthy had it focused on going after the slumlords (the real culprits). However, the approach that's being taken makes about as much sense as burning down a barn to get rid of a rat infestation. You call this a "win-win", yet I know sellers whose lives have already been turned upside by this. I believe many property owners in this village are justifiably angry, having expected the program to focus our limited inspection and code enforcement resources on slumlords, not the least likely offenders.
FJT December 02, 2012 at 06:37 PM
You wrote, "today everyone could be out of compliance" to justify shutting down every property owner in Port Chester via the revocation of their COs. As a US citizen, please think about what you're saying in terms of the implications. (You're being more than overzealous, to put it nicely.)
Bart Didden December 02, 2012 at 06:38 PM
@ Robski48, You can, but shouldn't use impact fee's for operating expenses because that is a recipe to fall off a cliff. The staffing levels all revolve around how much money government can take from the taxpayers, something that i take very seriously. But if you don't you can run for office this coming March on a higher taxes platform if you want to see what the residents think about your plan.
Bart Didden December 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
@FJT, There is no blanket cancellation of C of O's. Rather what has happened that turned this whole issue 90 degrees is the open permits. Since the BOT, including me, voted to scan all of the existing documents we have come across these open permits and you can't just turn your back on them. Someone other than then JUST the Village had responsibility to file completion certificates and request final inspections on these jobs. The issue has now come full circle from what started as Code compliance and building safety, to procedural compliance under the process of the Code, to Code compliance and building safety. It is not just intentional violators anymore. Technology and information accessibly has not made the affected pool bigger.
Bart Didden December 02, 2012 at 07:12 PM
@FJT, I am not setting up any false expectations for anyone that they should believe that they may not touched by this issue. I did not create it and I am not sweeping it under the carpet. It just struck me, if i didn't participate on this site and Facebook then who would give you any information, insight or reasoning why your elected officials did anything. Oh, it would be like it was when everything went wrong.
FJT December 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
You replied that there's no blanket revocation of COs, which made me think of President Clinton saying it depends on what the definition of "is" is. Here's what you wrote a while back: "Fashioned from an existing Law in effect for the last five years in the City of Peekskill, any and all land transactions will be required to get an updated Certificate of Occupancy from our Code/Building Department." So, for all practical purposes, without getting a new CO, a property owner can't ever sell or refinance -- and that applies to all property owners in Port Chester under its new law. By your stating there has been no blanket revocation of COs in Port Chester, I interpret it to mean: If a property owner never plans to sell or refinance, he needn't get a new CO unless he's been caught with an unclosed building permit or some other violation that turned up in a search of old Building Department records. I'm not being argumentative -- just trying to understand the CO issue around which there remains much confusion. That said, if I've interpreted your words correctly, Port Chester has indirectly revoked or annulled every property owner's long-standing CO because no one can sell or refinance without getting a new one. (As we know, almost every PC property owner sells or refinances at some point and is currently holding a worthless CO, unless it's one that has just very recently been issued.)
Bart Didden December 02, 2012 at 08:13 PM
@ FJT, I did once propose to cancel all C O's as an attempt to find illegal uses. That effort failed and rightfully so as I have stated in the past. In today's post I referred to the issue taking a 90 degree turn based on open permits. The confusion is occurring because new technology and information is coming into consideration that dictates how we move forward. Yes you are correct, if you never plan on selling or refinancing, you have no immediate issue under the current plans of operation. This is not to say that the Village may use the documents it has in its possession in the future to trigger inspections with fines and penalties. I do believe that there are current C O's issued that are fine, I just don't believe its the majority.
FJT December 02, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Bart, thanks for your reply. It looks like many homeowners who try to sell now and in the future will be in for some very unpleasant surprises. Again, thanks, but I have to say once again that I sincerely believe that our limited building/code enforcement resources should have been focused on slumlords. Ridding ourselves of that blight could bring property values up. The current program is just making more homeowners scramble for the exits, in my opinion.
Bart Didden December 02, 2012 at 08:39 PM
@FJT, That is why now Amnesty has a new meaning going forward and not to worry, Code Enforcement still has its same guidance from the BOT to find it and prosecute it.
Interested Reader December 02, 2012 at 10:26 PM
This is, for certain, one of the biggest issues our community has ever faced, I think everyone will agree. I think the most important point made here is the fact that it is NOT the single family homeowner that has impacted the community in a negative manner. How about a sign up for an inspection to prove you are a one family and then issue the certificate of occupancies free and clear. Then require annual inspections for all muti-family, two and up, every year. Then we must have access to all home address of children registered in our schools. Compare them to tax records and we will get somewhere very quickly. Not legal? It's time for our State Elected Officials to step up to the plate.
Robski48 December 02, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Bart, I find it interesting that in a earlier post on this thread you state about the property that was purchased on Grace Church, and I quote from you, "The piece of property you are referring to was purchased with DEDICATED funds that had to be used on parks. It was restricted, not making any worthwhile interest in the bank and there was an opportunity. If you can't see that then there is not much I can do to help you." Now, after after 5 days, after you probably spoke to the village attorney, and saw that you were wrong on the "DEDICATED" funds, as you state, you soften your tune and change your opinion, you state it's not fiscally right. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE HECK YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT? People, come next election, please don't vote this flip flopper back in!!!!!!!
Bart Didden December 03, 2012 at 12:30 AM
@ Robski48, $212,000 of the $300,000 purchase price came from funds DEDICATED to Parks from subdivision applications that were granted. I don't have to speak to the Village Attorney, but if you continue dribble posts like this because you don't want proven business leaders making the policy decisions in this Village and holding the line on spending and taxes, keep shilling for Pilla and idiots in general. I will have to begin to ignore you.
Robski48 December 03, 2012 at 10:38 AM
If you choose to ignore me, I am not going to lose sleep over it. I just feel you would be taking the easy way out, instead of answering the hard questions. I am not "shilling" for Pilla as I would be saying the same to him if he posted on these social media sites. The $88,000 of non dedicated park lands funds sounds to me like the price of a fireman, police officer, couple DPW workers or more hours for EMS, as the Kingsport money is compensating for. PS... I also think $300,000 for a piece of property on Grace Church St, across the street from the projects is pretty generous. I know you will respond with the appraisal price was $350,000 and you got it for $50,000 less, but I question the appraisal as well. Your own town assessor says it is worth less than your purchase price.
Bart Didden December 03, 2012 at 08:13 PM
@Robski48, yep $88,000 sounds like one employee for about one year, but now we have the ability to provide better access to a park forever. That is the difference between operating and capital expenses and why when the property was available it was time to buy it, all to maximize the asset that we already have. We have no control over the assessor, please direct that comment to Supervisor Carvin, at the Town of Rye.

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