Monday, November 19, 2007

The Chickens Come Home To Roost

Levittown's Hometown Civic Gives Zoning Board An Earful On Ex-Building Commish's Blunder

"Government is not the solution to our problems. It's the problem."
--Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address, 1981

If it wasn't enough that the egregious conduct of former Town of Hempstead Building Commissioner, John Loeffel, took place right under Town Supervisor Kate Murray's nose (on the very street where she lives, no less), now the civic association in which Kate Murray -- as a Levittown resident -- is a dues-paying member, has appeared before the Town's Zoning Board, asking that Loeffel's after-the-fact Application for variances and permits be denied.

Talk about pouring salt into an open wound.

Meanwhile, the position of Building Commissioner, vacated under pressure by John Loeffel nearly 10-months ago, remains open [having searched every hill and dale on this continent, the Town will now look to outsource the post], and the Deputy Commissioner, Daniel Casella, recently announced his intention to call it quits after 18 years.

So who will be watching the hen house at the Town of Hempstead Building Department?

No worries. They've apparently been on auto-pilot going on more than a century now (or for as long as there have been permits to issue and variances to grant). Another few years, until the ceiling crumbles and the floor falls out from underneath them, shouldn't matter much.
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Group wants ex-building chief's permits denied

A homeowners association is asking the Hempstead Zoning Board to deny variances sought by former building commissioner John Loeffel, citing his illegal home renovations as a blatant disregard of the law he was appointed to uphold.

The Levittown Property Owners Association - of which Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray is a member - raised objections at Loeffel's zoning board hearing Thursday.

Loeffel is seeking to legalize major improvements he made to his house more than three years ago, without required permits or paying proper taxes. Loeffel was forced to resign in February after the illegal second story on his Levittown Cape was discovered.

The remodeled house exceeds height limits by about two feet and takes up nearly 2 percent more of the property than code allows, officials said.

Board members want to examine the house and the neighborhood before making their decision.

If they deny Loeffel's request, he can be forced to remove the illegal home additions. Loeffel's attorney, Arthur Nastre of Hewlett, said at the hearing that his client has already removed an illegal outside staircase and upstairs deck as well as an unpermitted shed.

Nastre and Loeffel could not be reached for comment Friday.

Two association members read a letter on behalf of the group Thursday, asking the board to deny any variances "which adversely affect the neighborhood and undermine the original intention of the builder of Levittown."

"The infractions to be remedied are many and, in fact, disregard completely the law which the applicant was appointed to uphold," the letter read."

It seemed only fair that his variances should be questioned like other people's are," Daphne Rus, the association's secretary, said Friday.

Nastre presented letters from several neighbors in Loeffel's favor and offered examples of similar variances granted by the board in Loeffel's neighborhood, officials said. Murray, who lives on the same street, and is a dues-paying member of the 250-family association, declined comment. She is prohibited from influencing zoning board deliberations.

If the variances are granted, the building department will inspect the renovations for code compliance and issue permits.

The town has not yet named a new building commissioner. Last week, Deputy Commissioner Daniel Casella announced that he is leaving his $92,000 post after nearly 18 years with the town.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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