Sleepy Hollow Village officials have been warning that new building codes, which were approved in March, would force landlords to halt illegal housing and fix run-down buildings.
If there were any doubters out there, fines meted out in court last week indicate that the Village's Building Department is taking a hard line on violators.
Last Thursday, Sleepy Hollow Village Court convened to hear cases involving violations of the village's building code. In total, the offenses heard in the session could have amounted to over $200,000 in fines.
"This is the first effect from the code changes," Village Architect Sean McCarthy said.
The first landlord, Pilar Lopez of Howard St., was the heaviest hit by the new regulations. Lopez owns numerous properties on the bend on Clinton St.
According to McCarthy, Lopez's 27 Clinton St. apartment had illegal living structures erected in the basement and the attic. In total there were 12 violations (plumbing without a permit, lack of fire alarms and more) cited by the building department. Total fines handed out by building inspectors were in excess of $141,000; Village Justice Andres Valdespino reduced the amount to $30,000.
The building next door, 29-31 Clinton St., had similar problems and received a fine of over $49,000, which was reduced to $10,000.
Lopez also has another property in violation, 35 Clinton St., which is going through the courts and could land Lopez with a fine of over $19,000; that case was adjourned until July 22.
Village records also indicate that Lopez's properties were in water and sewer arrears this year. Lopez owed the village over $2,500 for water and sewer services. Trustees moved the amount he owed to his property taxes, as they did for a host of other village residents who were in arrears.
We were unable to find a contact number for Lopez to get a comment from him.
Another building targeted was 64-66 Beekman Ave. The building has been unoccupied since a fire in 2008 damaged the property. Since then it has languished on Sleepy Hollow's main street, slowly degrading in the elements.
The owner of the property, Callas Realty Corporation, was cited for owning an unfit structure. The original fine was back dated and totaled about $11,000. The judge reduced the fee to $4,000.
McCarthy said that Callas Realty Corporation would soon begin the process of tearing down 64-66 Beekman Ave. He also said that the fines handed out in court were not yet final.
"They are not completed yet, we are still seeking compliance on these matters," McCarthy said. "The fines are subject to increases."
Fine increases would have to be determined by the village building department, and could be amended by Village Justice Andres Valdespino.
McCarthy said that those who were fined last week in court had been involved with the building department for some time.
"The building department gives everyone a great opportunity to fix their properties voluntarily, and we work with property owners to help gain compliance," McCarthy said. "They had many opportunities, but at some time we have to hand it over to the court."