A resolution passed in the Suffolk County Legislature will place the onus on contractors when a structure encroaches onto county parkland.
The resolution, titled A Local Law to Ensure the Protection of County Parkland, passed in the Legislature June 23 and will take effect immediately after it is signed by County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The legislation requires a contractor working on private property that abuts parkland must obtain a copy of the land survey of the private parcel from the homeowner. The legislation also requires that the private property owner must submit a written affirmation that there have been no changes to the property since the survey. An affidavit must be filled out stating the work being performed is within private property and neither encroaches on or physically disturbs the adjacent parkland. It’s required that the affirmation be signed by the contractor and notarized.
“As Suffolk residents, we all bear the responsibility of being stewards of our environment.”
— Susan Berland
Fines for violation of the law are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for three or more.
The legislation was co-sponsored by county legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills), Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood), Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) and was first introduced at the beginning of 2020. The legislation was inspired after a case in Smithtown where homeowners built a gazebo partly made of brick that was situated on a small piece of land that is part of Arthur H. Kunz County Park. The owners also had placed a putting green next to the structure.
“Suffolk County has long been a leader in protecting open space and parkland,” Berland said in an email. “As Suffolk residents, we all bear the responsibility of being stewards of our environment.”
Berland added that many residents encroached on public lands during her time as Town of Huntington councilwoman, where the town took some legal actions.
“These actions come at significant cost to taxpayers and can be avoided by ensuring that all involved in construction at these homes are certain that property boundaries are being observed,” the legislator said. “Suffolk County has a record of spearheading initiatives to safeguard the environment, earning us a regional and national reputation for innovation on this front. This resolution serves to further bolster that reputation.”
We don’t want people building and taking advantage of land that we’ve spent a lot of money to preserve for the residents of Suffolk County.
— Kara Hahn
Hahn said it makes sense for contractors to take extra precautions when building near parkland.
“If you’re a contractor, and you’re about to put down a fence, and the property next to you is 100 acres, you have to take a look and say, ‘Oh, what land is that,’” she said, adding it’s simple to determine what’s public parkland looking at online maps.
“It’s common sense,” the legislator said. “We don’t want people building and taking advantage of land that we’ve spent a lot of money to preserve for the residents of Suffolk County. We preserve it to prevent building on it.”
Hahn said the legislation will not only prevent intentional and unintentional encroachment but will also protect both the homeowners and contractors.
She said the protection of parkland is more important than ever as more residents search for outdoor activities during the pandemic.
“I think it’s abundantly clear how important [parklands] are to the health of our communities — our mental health, our physical health, community well-being — and it’s important to protect them in every way we can,” Hahn said.