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Port Chester Building Code Amnesty Continues Into 2013

Homeowners in Port Chester can find out if their homes are under code violation with the Port Chester Building Department and apply for amnesty for another four months.
Homeowners in Port Chester can find out if their homes are under code violation with the Port Chester Building Department and apply for amnesty for another four months. Photo Credit: Anna Helhoski

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Port Chester’s housing violation amnesty program, which is aimed at easing penalties for work done on homes without permits, will continue for four more months, according to the village Board of Trustees.

“There were dozens of people, and we have thousands of situations,” said Mayor Dennis Pilla of the applications that have already come into the village.

The program was approved in October and initially supposed to wrap up at the end of the year. However, the Board of Trustees decided this month to continue accepting applications through the end of April.

In discussions, Trustee Bart Didden suggested extending the program for another four months. But he said he did not think it would be as effective to apply a proposed “everyday low pricing” for all future building permits. “That would just kick the can down the road forever,” he said.

The standard code enforcement program would subject property owners to substantial fines if they failed to close out permits or never obtained permits or certificates of occupancy.

While the Building and Code Enforcement departments are proactive in reaching out to property owners to resolve permit issues on a case-by-case basis, the village Board of Trustees determined that an amnesty program would encourage more voluntary code compliance.

“From the time someone applies, how long does it take to get to them, and how long does it take to actually resolve the issues?” asked Trustee Daniel Brakewood. “People I’m talking to that are signing up for the amnesty program have a tremendous amount of angst. They don’t know generally what they’re getting into, how much it’s going to cost, and how long it’s going to take to resolve.”

About 63 people have applied for permit amnesty so far, according to Village Manager Christopher Steers, adding that he would be amazed if the village receives more than 300 applications during the program’s extension. However, he said it shouldn’t be a problem to resolve applicants' issues in an 18-month period from the beginning of January.

Residents can go to the Building Department to request research on their properties. The department will then generate a record of the property and allow the owner to correct any issues. The amnesty allows residents a chance to remedy building code violations with reduced or waived fines and fees.

Once amnesty is approved, homeowners have 18 months to make corrections and can apply for an additional time period, if necessary.

“This is a community project, and it is going to take everybody in the community coming together and fixing up their problems, their issues, closing their permits and upgrading the whole village,” said Didden.

An application for the amnesty program may be downloaded from the village website , or stop by the Building Department office at 222 Grace Church St., Port Chester.

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