By Betsy Abraham
After months of deliberation, the Village of Westbury has decided not to restrict overnight parking. However it is implementing a “zero tolerance” housing policy with intensified enforcement, which includes raising fines for violations and hiring two additional code enforcement officers.
At a press conference on March 28, Mayor Peter Cavallaro said that the board wanted to bring closure to the months of information sessions at which the public has voiced both support for and opposition to the proposed law to restrict parking from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. on certain residential streets of the village.
“The thing that rang the most true to the board was that before we impose additional restrictions on law-abiding residents, we need to do everything we can to address property owners and residents who are not abiding by the law,” Cavallaro said.
While the village is not implementing an all-inclusive law, it will still entertain requests on a case by case basis from homeowners who want an overnight parking restriction on their street. If at least one resident from 51 percent of homes on the whole street sign a petition requesting restricted overnight parking, the village will consider enacting a rule for that specific section.
Many of the components of the more rigorous housing enforcement program, such as higher fines for violators, have already been in place but will now be intensified. Those efforts will gain steam with two new code enforcement hires, who will focus exclusively on housing, occupancy and property maintenance issues.
“We’re going to create a housing enforcement unit so we can target our efforts to those property owners who are breaking the law,” Cavallaro said.
Currently, the building department has five full-time employees and plans to begin interviews immediately for the two new officers.
One of the more recent changes in the village’s battle against illegal housing is modifying the search warrant law to eliminate prior notice. As of earlier this month, if village officials are denied access to a home that they suspect of criminal activity or excess residents, they no longer have to give written notice to the homeowner that they are working to obtain a search warrant. Cavallaro notes that it’s rare that the village has to get a search warrant to go into a home, but in those instances officials must show probable cause and present the court ample evidence of criminal activity.
Other elements of the “zero tolerance” approach include limited plea bargaining, seeking arrest warrants and/or jail time for repeat offenders, more stringent requirements for non-owner-occupied rentals, and requiring convicted landlords to agree to three- and six-month post-conviction inspections.
Cavallaro says that the village will consider implementing tighter parking restrictions in the future if it is deemed necessary.
“Even though we’re withholding our consideration of parking restriction, we do hold them on the table and if we think we need to go back to them in the future, we will go back to them,” Cavallaro said. “But first we want to attack it from the violator’s standpoint.”
A mailer will go out to all village residents this week with more details on the “zero tolerance” housing enforcement program.