Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hempstead Town's Ex Building Chief's Noncompliance Reached New Heights

Will Zoning Board Give Wink And Nod To Loeffel's Supersized Renovations?

Unlikely we'll know before the fall elections how the Zoning Board of the Town of Hempstead will rule when John Loeffel's too tall McMansion is the subject of a "better late than never" application for a variance.

A hearing scheduled before the Board will likely be adjourned today, at the request of the former Building chiel's attorney, as Loeffel tries to get himself out of yet another jam -- renovating his Levittown cape so that its height now exceeds permissible Town limits.

Doubtful that the Town will make Loeffel tear down the house built up without permits -- the Town not being very proficient at demolishing the unlawful or the unsightly -- and the issuance of a variance would certainly not be unprecedented.

Of course, to avoid the appearance of even further impropriety, look for the Zoning Board to give Loeffel a difficult time -- oh, NOW they care about zoning -- before they allow his oversized handiwork to stand.

Meanwhile, the Town of Hempstead's national search for a new Building Commish continues. [See how nicely they've gotten along without a Building chief for all these months. Still business as unusual, and nobody seems to notice.]

We hear that the fall line-up on ABC will feature a new reality show -- Hempstead Town's Top Builder, hosted by Bob Villa.

Contenders waiting in the wings for a shot at the coveted title of Building Commissioner include former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Al D'Amato's ex wife.
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More trouble for former Hempstead buildings chief

Ousted Hempstead building commissioner John Loeffel, already seeking to legalize home improvements he made three years ago, now faces a new hurdle: Adding a second story made his house too tall. Loeffel was supposed to appear before the town's zoning board of appeals today seeking permits and variances for the renovations to his Levittown house. But his lawyer will seek a postponement today, according to a letter submitted to the town Aug. 31, after discovering the addition Loeffel built violates a building regulation put into effect Sept. 1 limiting the height of homes to 30 feet. Loeffel's home is 20 inches taller.

Loeffel was forced to resign his $112,398 a year post after Newsday reported in February that he had made major improvements to his home without permits and had not paid property taxes on the additions.When Loeffel submitted his application in March to legalize the work, the house addition height conformed to town codes in effect at that time. But the town has since lowered the maximum height in order to prevent an influx of over-sized homes.

Now, Loeffel must re-submit his architectural plans and include a request for a height variance from the zoning board, town officials said. Loeffel and his attorney, Arthur Nastre of Hewlett, could not be reached for comment. Loeffel is seeking to legalize improvements including a second-story deck, one-story addition to the back of the home, and the conversion of a garage to living space. He is also seeking permission for an oversized shed, an arbor, and a porch that he built as part of the improvements three years ago. In addition, he needs permission to continue using the single-family home as a mother-daughter structure that allows a second kitchen upstairs for a relative.

It will be at least several weeks before he gets another zoning board hearing date and a decision by the board. His plans were rejected once because town officials said he failed to address an unfinished attic.

Loeffel's new plans also will require review by the county planning commission and the town building department. He has to get a new environmental quality review. Loeffel will have to pay nearly $6,000 more in property taxes next year because of the three-year-old additions, for a total of $13,119, the Nassau County assessor's office has said.

Loeffel began working for the town in 1969 and became building commissioner in December 2006.

Previously, Loeffel apologized for his actions, saying he didn't have the time to apply for the proper permits.

"I was going to file for it, then I was going to retire," he said. But when he was promoted to deputy commissioner in 2005, he was "too embarrassed" to reveal the situation.

Out of compliance
Former Hempstead Building Commissioner John Loeffel expanded his house without the required permits. Here is how the renovations violate town code:

Second story
Double dormers
Garage converted into living space
Rear addition
Front addition
Second-story deck
Front covered porch

Roof height of 31 feet, 8 inches instead of maximum 30 feet (as of Sept. 1).

Second-story apartment in single-family zoned home.

22.67 feet instead of required minimum 25 feet.

5.3 feet on one side and 2.33 feet on the other, instead of required 5 feet minimum on one side and total of 15 feet.

35.12 percent instead of maximum 30 percent.


Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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