The Clarkstown Town Board’s ramping up of fines and penalties for town code violations got the approval of Rockland County Deputy Fire Coordinator John Kryger on Tuesday night. The board passed sweeping changes in 26 chapters of the town code including those pertaining to housing and fire code violations. Kryger, who is also a volunteer firefighter in West Haverstraw, said he was glad to see the town taking action against “slumlords.”
Kryger was one of two people who spoke during a public hearing on amendments to the town code. The board voted unanimously to update and increase fines and penalties for violations relating to building construction administration, graffiti, dogs and other animals, massage establishments, littering and posting, parking, noise, property maintenance, recycling, solid water transportation and disposal, vehicles and traffic, and zoning. Additionally the new local law includes provisions for dealing with “double woods” or double utility poles that stand in the town right of ways.
Town Attorney Amy Mele said the intention of the changes was to implement a “three strikes and you’re out process.” The amendments set penalties for first, second and third offenses and established minimum and maximum fines. The first time a housing code violation is issued, the fine would be no less than $2,500 and could go up to $15,000.
On Wednesday, Clarkstown Building Inspector Peter Beary said over the past 16 months the town received 47 complaints about possible illegal conversions. He explained that 13 were found to be violations and of those seven went to court. Two of the seven cases that went to court have been adjudicated and five are still outstanding.
Mele said each week that a violation is not corrected it is considered a separate and additional violation subject to a fine. She said the 2012 fire at an illegally converted home in Valley Cottage prompted creation of a committee to review the fines and penalties in the town code.
Councilmember George Hoehmann said Clarkstown’s new sanctions were probably the most stringent in the area.
“This is among the highest in the region,” said Hoehmann. “They should really act as a deterrent."
The updated provision for double woods defines what they are and allows a 90-day window for utilities to shift their equipment from the old pole to the new pole and removal of the old pole before fines are imposed. Mele said Orange & Rockland had raised questions about the amendment and she would meet with their representative and if necessary, the town board would amend the local law in the future.