Yorktown town board members have agreed to extend the time period during which a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) is valid from 90 to 180 days.
A temporary certificate of occupancy certifies a building's compliance with the town's applicable building codes and indicates it's in a condition suitable for occupancy.
"As far as I'm concerned the issues of Yorktown businessmen are the problems of the town of Yorktown that we should take seriously," Yorktown supervisor Michael Grace.
He said in this tough economy, giving a little extra time to a business owner to finish up whatever is needed in order to open, could be the difference between success and failure. Most of the property owners in town are also Yorktown residents who are trying to make a living, Grace said.
The most recent temporary certificate of occupancy was given to the in Mohegan Lake.
Susan Siegel, former Yorktown supervisor, has questioned why that temporary certificate was given to the business owner and said she was opposed to the town extending the time period to 180 days.
"I support the issuance of temporary [certificates of occupancy] when a structure has met all the requirements of the building code and the only remaining issues before a permanent CO can be issued are minor exterior issues, such as, to use the words of some of the board members 'planting some bushes'," she said.
She said it would be understandable if, due to the weather, bushes aren't planted in January, but it shouldn't take more than 90 days to pave a parking lot or finish up the planting. She said most of any site plan requirements are related to public safety issues and if those site improvements have not been made, a certificate of occupancy should not be issued.
Temporary certificates of occupancy are given on a case by case basis, Grace said, and they would not granted if there are issues with the public safety, whether inside or outside of the building.
"As long as public safety is addressed and there is not any risks to our constituents, or citizens, we're OK with the business opening if it was only a few bushes," Yorktown councilman Dave Paganelli said. "It was more us trying to have a business open and the public safety be at the paramount."
He said public safety is something that's "uncompromisable."
Yorktown councilman Nick Bianco said he agreed with Siegel and thought 90 days was a sufficient time for a temporary certificate of occupancy.
Grace said he has met with a business owner who is paying out rent, but he was losing income because he hasn't been able to fill up his empty storefront for months. In that situation for example, he said it would be fine if the town issued a temporary certificate of occupancy while the parking issues are being taken care of.
"I think we should be partners with our business property owners," Grace said. "If we don't give a damn about their problems, we don't give a damn about this town."
He added that when a certificate of occupancy is issued, a business property's assessment changes and the business owner starts paying taxes, including sales and property taxes.
"It's a big advantage to the town," Grace said. "It's the way we get our revenue. You don't pay taxes on a business that's not open."
The board passed the law with a 4-1 vote, with councilman Bianco casting the opposing vote.
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