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Greenport to investigate ‘damaging’ building department allegations

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09/25/2015 12:00 PM |

Doug Roberts

The Greenport Village Board plans to address several building department complaints, including allegations of inconsistent inspections and incomplete files relating to one Village Board member, before hiring a new inspector.

During the Village Board’s meeting Thursday night, Zoning Board of Appeals member David Corwin said he’s recently reviewed several files and found many irregularities.

One of his claims relates to a swimming pool owned by Trustee Doug Roberts.

Mr. Corwin said the pool located on Mr. Roberts’ property needed a variance due to “a problem a previous owner created when they subdivided the property.”

“The Zoning Board of Appeals gave the swimming pool a variance in August of 2014 that allowed Mr. Roberts to complete the purchase of the property,” Mr. Corwin said. “The swimming pool had a temporary Certificate of Occupancy that expired in 2010. A temporary CO must be granted by the ZBA.”

Mr. Corwin said he didn’t locate any paperwork in the file showing the ZBA had approved the temporary CO. Instead, he discovered the building inspector had approved it.

“The way I interpret the code, the ZBA must issue the temporary CO,” he added.

In addition, Mr. Corwin — an outspoken critic of previous Village administrations — said he inspected Mr. Roberts property and found it lacked state-mandated safety features. He also said he recently looked in the file and found no information indicating the features had been installed.

When resident Chatty Allen asked Mr. Roberts if he did, in fact, obtain the proper permits, Mr. Roberts said: “I was not a Village Trustee at the time.”

“The implication was there was some sort of influence,” he said, claiming Mr. Corwin’s remarks were political in nature.

“There was a four-foot fence enclosing the pool when Mr. Corwin was there. There are gate-locking mechanisms, which the building inspector inspected.”

“I believe I have the proper paperwork,” he continued. “If I don’t, fine me … Come check it out. It’s fenced. It’s locked. It’s safe.”

Mr. Roberts later posted a photo of his CO on Facebook. A review of the Zoning Board of Appeals minutes show the application had been approved by the board.

“I share Mr. Corwin’s concern that it was not in my file when he inspected it,”Mr. Roberts wrote online. “If he is correct, that is a huge problem we need to fix. He is incorrect about there not being a fence when he inspected it.”

At the meeting Thursday, Resident Karen Pollack said she’s also reviewed building department files and believes many permits and fee waivers were issued illegally.

Both Ms. Pollack and Mr. Corwin’s comments were made prior to the Village Board voting on a resolution to create a new senior building inspector position. Both Ms. Pollack and Mr. Corwin believe building inspector Eileen Wingate should be replaced instead of the village hiring a new employee.

Mayor George Hubbard described Ms. Pollack’s findings as “the most damaging report I’ve seen and includes stuff I didn’t even know about.”

“In light of what we heard tonight, I’d like to review this,” he said. “We’ll all get together and review everything. We need to know what’s going on there. We need to fix the problem.”

The mayor added approving the resolution to create a senior building inspector position allows the village to advertise for the job.

“It does not mean we’re hiring anyone at this time,” he said. “I’d like to review the building department as a whole. After we do that and feel the need to hire somebody, then that’s what we’ll do. We’re not hiring anyone at this point.”

Mr. Roberts cast the lone dissenting vote to create the position and described hiring a new employee as “irresponsible.”

“We’re going to have more building inspectors than villages much larger than ours,” he said. “And we don’t know how we’re going to pay for it.”

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Photo: Trustee Doug Roberts at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Update 3:15 p.m. Friday: This article has been updated with additional comment from Mr. Roberts. 

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