SCHENECTADY -- City Council members on Monday released amendments to an ordinance regarding illegal paving in the city.
The proposed law was released ahead of a scheduled public hearing on Aug. 13, and the amendments were detailed during the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting.
The changes would allow the city to hold both contractors and homeowners accountable for any illegal paving work.
The illegal paving of residential yards has been a problem in the city for some time. Independent Councilman Vince Riggi said such paving can cause of host of problems -- not just for the homeowner, but for neighbors, as well.
“Most of the complaints we received are where people paved over their grass areas and yards, and there are runoff problems,” Riggi said.
Councilman John Mootooveren, who presented the amendment to the council, said flooding and drainage issues can result.
“What we are trying to do is address it and bring it under control,” Mootooveren said.
The amendments were originally discussed last month. Council members said they were looking to include language in the ordinance that addresses the illegal paving of yards and who should be held accountable.
While Mayor Gary McCarthy previously said the homeowners could be held responsible, he said he wanted to include contractors as a responsible party because they are the ones with the expertise.
The ordinance regarding illegal paving currently has penalties associated with it. Those involved in illegally paving a yard can face fines of up to $1,000 per day that the paving remains in place, or a jail sentence of up to 15 days. Other penalties could include community service.
The amendment to the paving ordinance also designates the Bureau of Code Enforcement as the issuer paving permits. If a paving project is found to violate the terms of its permit, city Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens could direct the work to be redone, either by the contractor or by city crews. Homeowners would be charged for any work needed by city employees, according to the ordinance.
Council members have argued that getting a permit is a requirement meant to protect everyone involved in a project, including the homeowner and the contractor.
Councilman John Polimeni said the permits could also protect homeowners who might not know when something is being done improperly by a contractor.
“Let’s face it. As a homeowner, you hire a contractor and think they’re going to do the right thing,” Polimeni said. "You don’t know that they are not. So, we want to be fair to everybody.”
Polimeni said there are plans to do a more comprehensive review of the city’s permit structure. This would focus not only holding both homeowners and contractors accountable for construction projects in the city, but also on reviewing the fee structures associated with the permits.
“Basically, it’s not just the paving of backyards issues. In general, it’s an issue of permits not being obtained for a number of things,” Polimeni said.
Riggi said he agrees with the amendments but said it still doesn’t address the homeowners who already have illegally paved their yards.
McCarthy previously said it can be hard to prove what the condition of the yard was before it was paved.
Still, the legislation is a good start in trying to address the issue, Riggi said. And he hopes the council will listen to what’s said at the public hearing and modify the ordinance accordingly.
Mootooveren said that’s the plan.
“That’s the reason why we kind of pushed to have the draft out before the public hearing, so we can have a few people speak on it, take that information and be able to add it to the draft,” Mootooveren said.