Chatham might fine its scofflaws, but not yet

CHATHAM–The Village Board held a special meeting last week to discuss fees for permits, eyeing a slight increase in the cost for building permits while keeping other charges consistent with what nearby municipalities require as long as the fees cover the costs of issuing the permits.

At its September 25 meeting the board also looked to the winter ahead and the prospect that some property owners in the village will once again fail to shovel the snow off sidewalks in front of their buildings, causing “bottlenecks” as Mayor Tom Curran put it.

Village Clerk/Treasurer Barbara Henry said that there is a law on the books allowing the village to fine people for not clearing the sidewalks in front of their properties of snow and ice within 24 hours after a snowstorm. She said the issue has been enforcement. Though no one was fined last year, several property owners received letters from the village about the clearing their sidewalks.

The law says that if the sidewalk is not cleared by the owner the village Department of Public Works will do the job and the village will bill the owner. But the DPW doesn’t have the equipment to clear the sidewalks. There are also sidewalks that are supposed to be cleared by the state or by CSX Transportation, the railroad company that owns property in the village. Some of these walkways are also not taken care of in a timely way.

The board discussed requesting bids from contractors to do the work if needed instead of buying new equipment for the DPW.

“We need to have someone available to do it if it’s not done,” said Trustee Lenore Packet, calling the snow-covered sidewalks a public safety issue. The board decided to discuss the issue with the DPW before asking for bids from private snow removal companies.

The board also mulled the matter of fees and decided to discuss the cost of building permits with village Code Enforcement Officer Walt Simonsmeier before changing any of the rates. But members indicated they do want to raise the fees after looking at what villages like Tivioli and Red Hook are charging as well as the fees charged by the Towns of Chatham and Ghent.

The board looked at everything from the peddler’s fee for food trucks and the ice cream van, to filming permits. And trustees talked about home construction projects, including the prospect of a fine for people who start construction without first obtaining permits from the village Planning Board. Mayor Curran said that currently when construction jobs start without permits the code enforcement officer contacts the property owners to inform them of the requirement for proper permits. But there are no fines for failure to comply.

Recently the village Planning Board had to deal with this issue at Our Daily Bread on Route 66, when projects moved forward without permits from that board.

“It doesn’t have to be an outrageous fee,” said Ms. Packet. The board discussed a sliding scale.

Trustees will continue to examine the permit fees at their next regular meeting Thursday, October 9 and are hoping to get some input from village residents before making any changes. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial Village Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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