Town Board hearings on eyesore properties set for Tuesday

The Town Board will hold two public hearings Tuesday night on code changes aimed at cleaning up eyesore properties.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, the board will take comment on shortening the time applicants have to complete projects with approved site plans from three years to 18 months. After 18 months, applicants would need to return to the Planning Board to request an extension.

The suggested code changes include granting the Planning Board greater authority to request performance bonds from developers as insurance that projects will be completed, particularly in instances where the use of a property is being intensified or when a commercial project abuts residential land.

The changes come in response to building projects that received full town approvals but were never started or stopped midway through. They include the long-languishing, partially built Hudson City Savings Bank branch on Route 25 in Mattituck and the never pursued enclosed storage area for trucks at Satur Farms in Cutchogue, where neighbors say vehicles now idle all night long near their homes.

Town planners, who reviewed the code language during the Feb. 6 Planning Board meeting, said they favor the changes.

The town is also looking to prevent applicants from cutting down trees on their properties while their projects are under review.

The most recent case involves the owners of a site on New Suffolk Road in Cutchogue who have yet to receive permission to convert a garage into offices for a cleaning business but recently removed the large trees along the roadway.

“It makes it very clear: Don’t touch the trees,” said planning director Heather Lanza.

The second public hearing concerns allowing the town to cite property owners for not maintaining their lawns, hedges and bushes; for keeping unregistered vehicles in open view on their property; for keeping garbage outdoors without putting it in garbage cans; for not cleaning up graffiti; and for having stagnant water or open wells, cesspools or cisterns.

The changes would allow the town to perform the necessary maintenance if the property owner refuses to comply. The town would then charge the cost as a lien on the property tax bill.

People who violate the new section of the code could also be fined up to $2,500, in addition to a fine of up to $5,000 for neglecting to comply with an order to clean up their property, a provision already in the code.

Property owners would be given 10 days to comply with cleanup orders.

The Town Board proposed the changes to the property maintenance code last month, after hearing extensive complaints from neighbors of bank-owned properties throughout town who had difficulty getting the banks’ maintenance companies to keep the properties from deteriorating.

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