Occupancy case sparks call for clear policy

TAGHKANIC–Board members Joyce Thompson and Larry Kadish addressed a problem with record keeping by the town’s former building inspector at the May 3 meeting. It appears that some people have certificates of occupancy and others who should have them don’t.

Houses built before 1972 are not required to have the certificates, but many owners of homes built since 1972 who do not have them will run into problems if they try to sell or refinance, said town attorney Robert Fitzsimmons.

It is up to the owner to notify the building inspector when a home is complete, at which point a certificate of occupancy is issued, building inspector Dennis Callahan said at the meeting. The certificate indicates that a home meets the required building code standards.

During the period of public comment, town resident Ardith Truhan said that a fine of $10,800 had been retroactively imposed on her and her husband, John Marcus, by the Town Board in 2007 because they had not obtained a certificate of occupancy, often called a “c of o,” after their house was completed. The fine has brought the issue to prominence. The couple, who say that they never received a violation notice left on the door of their house, hired a lawyer who successfully argued that retroactive billing for the 12 years they lacked the certificate was illegal.

“Why did this only happen to us in light of the fact that many other town residents lack certificates of occupancy?” Ms. Truhan asked.

They believe the answer may have something to do with their involvement with the Granger Group, which formed to combat the controversial motorcycle track built without a permit by Alan Wilzig, and because of a letter to the editor Mr. Marcus wrote to The Independent newspaper in July of 2007.

Eric Tyree, Mr. Wilzig’s assistant, and now head of the town Planning Board, requested copies of the Truhan/Marcus building records and made the complaint about their failure to obtain a certificate of occupancy. The complaint led to the fine.

Ms. Truhan said she and her husband have now reached a settlement with the town, but she would also like an explanation for the town’s action. So far, none has been forthcoming.

But the Town Board is now willing to work to regularize the c of o protocol. Mr. Fitzsimmons said he would work with Dennis Callahan to see what officials can do.

“We need a written policy,” said Ms. Thompson.

“It goes to the issue of basic trust between the citizen and the town, it needs to be addressed,” said Mr. Kadish.

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