Tag Archives: Andrew Getty

Insight gathered by front-line workers often proves invaluable to higher-ups

Do not assume this commentary to be solely about Town Officials, because it’s actually about so much more… 

Being involved with a number of town, county, state and federal government agencies, and different social and not-for-profits or other organizations, it becomes very frustrating to get anything done.

At least it seems that way.

Everyone knows things better than the person actually doing the work. This is such a common thread in so many ways, most people can relate to it in their daily lives, both job related and social. Continue reading

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Residential versus Commercial: A look at guards and handrails

Recently, a rather heated and interesting conversation was had with a contractor who came here to do a job for their friend’s summer home. After listening to how great a builder he was and what fine high quality and high end work he does, we had a long discussion about the difference between guards and rails.

He was sure they were the same, in all cases, no matter what kind of building or occupancy.

Yes, there is a difference between handrails and guards and how they are applied in residential and commercial.

Although they are close in some ways, there are clear differences as well.  Continue reading

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Everything you ever wanted to know about the local Zoning Board

Who are they—the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals—and what do they do?

The members of the ZBA are all appointed by the Town Board. There is five regular members plus one as an alternate member. Each serves a five year term, one term expiring each year.

The chairman or chairwoman is appointed each year as chair. The alternate is a sixth member and only votes when a regular member does not.

The absence of a regular member is the most common reason.

However, if a regular member chooses not to vote because of a potential conflict of interest, then the alternate would step in.

The intent of having the alternate hopefully eliminates the possibility of only having a four member vote, which in certain situations could lead to a two-two tie vote… which is essentially the same as a denial. Continue reading

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Code office records can reveal much about questionable projects

It happens to everyone. At some point, everyone reaches a time when reason just doesn’t work. You try, you try hard, but no matter what you say or do, the other person just won’t listen.

Voices get a little louder, you repeat the same suggestion several times, offer a quick olive branch which is dismissed without rationale.

Then it happens… the temper flares up, lashes out and it’s done.

Good, bad or indifferent, it’s done. The phone gets slammed down because the conversation is over.

Then you realize you didn’t even get the guy’s name. Oh well, probably wouldn’t matter anyway, he just was not going to listen. He was convinced that everyone in this office had an agenda to screw him. It had to be that way because his neighbor was doing something that was prohibited by zoning and we would not let him do the same thing… therefore, obviously we were all a bunch of dishonest idiots out to get him.

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Things slowing down, but in the codes office not quite yet

This is a typical comment received in the office this time of year. It’s an assumption that once Labor Day weekend has passed; everything slows down for the code office.

Actually things pick up for a while. Neighborly complaints may slow down because so many people who own second homes have gone back to their primary home.

But the building permit activity actually picks up.

Contractors are busy trying to get that foundation in the ground before the winter begins. This can be in just a few weeks, hopefully a few months.

The snow by itself will not prevent footings and foundations going in, but the cold combined with fighting the snow can make it really tough to get anything done.

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Floodplain complications getting worse with real property transfers

Who has experienced difficulty in selling or buying a house in the last couple of years because of a problem with a Floodplain issue? Plenty… and it’s only going to get worse.

Floodplain regulations apply to the development of land, disturbance of the natural ground, filling, removing earth, the installation of a driveway and certainly the construction of any type of building, no matter how big or small.

All may be subject to the regulatory requirements of the local Floodplain laws.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] mandated that all communities adopt floodplain development regulations many years ago, back in the early 1980’s.

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The Assumption of Knowledge: Comments and Answers…

Often people will believe they know something, when, in-fact, they really don’t. This applies in so many ways, to everyone and everyday life.

Setting aside the social impact of this concept, the following are things that we find so often true here in the Code Office.

More than likely, similar stories can be said from any Code Office.

COMMENT: We want to tear down and demolish that old building on our property that is way too close to the property line, but leave the foundation to prove it was there. That way we can save and protect our “grandfathered rights.”

ANSWER: There is no need to leave a portion of the old building there. There are several ways to prove that it was there. The best way is to show it on a survey prepared by a licensed Land Surveyor.

However, old or new pictures can do the same thing. Also, don’t forget, a demolition permit is required from the local Code Office.

Part of this process would include verification that the building is [was] there.

The inspection becomes part of the permanent record in the office.

C: We did not know a permit is required to remove a building. That’s just to generate more fees for your office isn’t it?

A: No, believe it or not, it’s not about the money. It is an attempt to be your advocate when it comes time for you to take advantage of any grandfathered rights that may exist.

The fee involved basically covers the town’s cost in doing this process. As this is a benefit directly to you, and usually not to the general public, there is a fee involved.

C: My neighbor is running a business, a commercial operation, at his property by renting out his house week after week. This is a very nice residential area. But every week there are different people there who are usually noisy and leave their garbage out on the wrong day, without any attempt of separation or recycling. The town should step in and stop this business!

A: Many years ago when the zoning ordinance was created, it was determined that the rental of a single-family home would not be considered a commercial operation.

Obviously, there are many houses in town… thousands.

Many of these are rented either seasonally, monthly, weekly and on occasion daily. However, by local law, this use does not constitute a violation.

Over the last ten or so years, there seems to be much more of this going on. The financial incentive to rent sometimes appears strong.

Some places are abused with what may appear as too aggressive of rental, but unless local law is changed, renting a house is legal.

C: The business next door is for sale and we are thinking of buying it. For years it has been a retail store. We want to fix the building up and make it into a hotel/motel with some units on the second floor. 

Since the property is in a commercial zoning district and it will still be commercial, we can just start remodeling immediately, right?

A: There are several things involved. One is how local law and the zoning ordinance apply. The other is how the NYS Building and Fire Code apply.

C: We were told since it’s still commercial, nothing was required.

A: Not really very accurate, although it may be okay, there are permits and approvals required.

First the local zoning.

A Conditional Use Permit is required from the Planning Board.

Although it is a potentially allowable use and is not specifically prohibited, they review the site plan, parking, signage or anything else, to determine the appropriateness of the new use for that particular area.

The second are the NYS Codes. Without getting into the structural, energy conservation and all the fire safety codes, any new residential use or occupancy shall have a sprinkler system installed.

Only one and two family dwellings are exempt.

C: Are you serious? That would cost us a fortune! It’s already a commercial building, it’s grandfathered!

A: It’s grandfathered for the same use, not a change in occupancy like from retail to residential. Please don’t have that typical “knee-jerk” reaction about costs.

Get professional estimates, talk to your insurance carrier and see what the long term costs are… you may be surprised.

Knowledge and understanding are powerful tools, if used the right way.

Also, there really isn’t any safe way to feed a bear…and yes, they will open car doors because they smell crumbs inside.

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