Town Catches Pool Permit Dodgers With Google Earth

New technology often has unintended consequences. In the case of Google Earth, a popular program that combines various satellite and aerial images to create a navigable 3D globe, it’s being used by one town to catch unpermitted pool owners.

Far cheaper than peeking over everyone’s fence, the town of Riverhead in Long Island used Google Earth to check out who had pools but never filled out the proper paperwork. Scofflaws were told to get the permits or pay up. The town has collected almost $75,000 in fines so far.

Hm, what other tax and permit evasions could municipalities catch if they just used a little Google Earth?

Google Earth used to find unpermitted pools on Long Island [AP]

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  1. smo0 says:

    I’m not sure about pools, but there are zoning issues when you do anything to change the landscape of a property or make additions to a building.

    I thought they could only fine you for catching you in the act, they cannot prove this pool wasn’t there with the house before these people lived there?

    Also, if they are matching up pools with filed paperwork – there are a lot of discrepencies with that.

    The only thing with this (this happened to my aunt) if you don’t fill out the paperwork and what’s done is done, you canNOT include it in the resale value of the home… that’s the only thing I’ve come across regarding this.

    Those residents should fight this.

    • Tim says:

      You’re going out on quite a few limbs for someone who doesn’t live in this town or know its laws.

      It looks like the crime is not having the correct permits to operate the pool, not to build it. If some pools were grandfathered in for one reason or another, I’m sure the town has records to show that.

      If your concern is discrepancies between the records and what exists, then the property owners ought to go ahead and make sure that their records are right with town hall. Chances are pretty good that it’s the property owner’s fault, since the onus is on him/her to make sure all the permits are right.

      I don’t see what grounds the property owners have to fight this. Either they have a pool that doesn’t have the required permits or they don’t. And I’m pretty sure that if they don’t, they’d fight it. But it sounds like it’s pretty clear-cut: Google shows you have a pool, but the town permitting office shows you don’t. Oh, you don’t? Please kindly allow a code enforcement officer to check out your back yard. Looks like a pool to me.

      • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

        No, you need a permit to build a pool. Not to operate it. The permits are there to protect the homeowner and ensure all safety rules are abided by so the homeowner (who doesn’t usually understand the installation) has a safe pool that operates as it should.

      • smo0 says:

        If anything, in Los Angeles, where my aunt resides – you’d think they would see the $$ and start raking in the fees… no – she just cannot use it in the resale value of the home…. that is all.

    • bhr says:

      Also, I think you are wrong about the whole “Only fine you for catching you in the act” part. Now, every state/county/town is different but it seems like a handful of times a year I read a story in the local paper about someone who is fighting to keep from having to bulldoze/fill/destroy some property modification they have down without the proper approval or permits.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      I think places can fine you or require you to remove the addition or whatever you added if you didn’t have the proper permits and inspections.

      http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/real-estate/20060722a1.asp

      Always an important lesson, if you are adding anything or doing construction to your home, check to see if you need a permit.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        If you have a reputable and experienced contractor, they would know and tell you.

        That, of course, does not excuse to you find out for yourself.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          Many contractors go out of their way to avoid getting a permit and dealing with the city inspector.

          It’s exceedingly rare to find an electrician who would voluntarily pull a permit for running a new circuit to a dishwasher or dryer.

          • Brunette Bookworm says:

            Then that’s a bad contractor and if they don’t want to have their work inspected, I don’t want their work.

      • jbandsma says:

        Where I live they can make you remove an unlicensed addition of any kind and fine you 3 times the value of the addition at current prices. The permit is cheaper. A LOT cheaper.

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      I’ve owned 2 homes in 2 different counties. In both counties, pools are listed with the parcel information. Supposing a house has a pool, but it’s not listed with the assessor’s office. A title search at time of sale would bring up the discrepancy, making it fairly clear who had the pool installed.
      Granted, in this scenario, the pool doesn’t get caught until the property is sold.

      • MaytagRepairman says:

        Also…. I recently looked up the parcel information for my own home. I don’t have a pool but I have a deck and the size of it is listed which I also assume figures into the tax accessors calculations.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Sounds like bad advice. My mom worked for a city government in the inspectors office. If you give them trouble, they come out and take a few core samples to make sure the thing is built correctly. They can even have you completely remove any additions, fine you, and then you can pay for the permit to rebuild it. The tax you avoid could also come back to bite you.

      • Difdi says:

        And you can’t do it back to them either, government buildings are exempted from building codes.

        • halfcuban says:

          No they’re not. Are you serious? Contractors for any government must follow codes and permitting just like anyone else. I’ve seen the zoning board decisions and signs for city projects just as much as private businesses.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        and where i live, retroactive permitting is double the fees for permit and inspection

    • Chaosium says:

      “Those residents should fight this.”

      Why? They have no recourse.

      “I thought they could only fine you for catching you in the act, they cannot prove this pool wasn’t there with the house before these people lived there?”

      Would have shown up in the appraisal, previous satellite images.

    • halfcuban says:

      It doesn’t matter if you weren’t one who built the pool; by taking ownership of the property you assume all the liabilities. This is why you do due-diligence before purchasing a home, have an inspection, and have a lawyer look whether the title to the home is in the free and clear with no liens or other issues with ownership. This is one of the reasons why you can find homes in expensive areas that are undervalued, and are not a result of a foreclosure or the general vagaries of the market; more than likely someone did unpermitted work which the new owner will need to pay the permitting, inspection, and corrections needed before they purchase it.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Exactly. Time doesn’t make permit issues go away, unless the renovation was done prior to the code going into effect; eg, you can’t add additional non-grounded circuits but you can’t be forced to upgrade if that’s what your house has.

        It’s not all that rare that previous homeowners installed new bathrooms or converted attics or basements into family rooms without getting a permit and proper inspections. Changing ownership doesn’t nullify the issue and an inspector can still make the new owner tear up the renovations and pay retroactive penalties.

        This is why when shopping for a new home, it’s a good idea to pull permits and to make sure the assessor’s information is consistent with the real estate listing.

    • Bohemian says:

      If they are using the current images on Google Earth someone could get fined for a pool or other violation that happened years ago. Google Earth still shows an image of my old house with my old car in the driveway from back in 2006. I don’t live there and that car is long gone.

  2. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I have read some comments on the articles associated with this story… and it’s interesting.
    You have people debating about it violating the 4th amendment, questions about if the city paid Google the license fee for Google Earth Pro (apparently required when using it to generate revenue), why they’re not using their towns own updated GIS maps that they probably pay a fee for anyway, etc

    interesting.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Sounds like they could pay Google with the revenue generated. An interesting twist though!

      • RvLeshrac says:

        I’m a fan of them paying upwards of $75,000 so far.

        Unless your property is directly affecting the living conditions of the people on property surrounding you, zoning restrictions like these are complete and utter bullshit.

        • Griking says:

          This article isn’t about town’s zoning laws, it’s about how the towns are identifying the people breaking the zoning laws. Personally I’m for whatever way the towns can identify people avoiding paying their share. The more people that avoid their obligation the higher my local taxes get.

    • MrsLopsided says:

      They could use Google Earth, Google Maps, or Bing Maps for a first cut to identify properties then follow-up with an onsite inspection. These sources are used for the initial list but still need to be verified in person.

    • DanRydell says:

      I doubt there is a fourth amendment issue since the pools are visible from outside of the property.

      Even if they would be required to pay for Google Earth Pro (I can’t find the actual terms of use that restrict the standard version from commercial use), it’s only $400 per user…

  3. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    Too many children drown around pools that aren’t up to code (fencing, pool alarms, ETC…) Even up here in bumpfuck nowhere NY I’d be required to pay for permits for safety reasons. I guess homeowners will think twice, or else build a discrete pool in their dining room ;)

    • Dutchess says:

      Tagged as the obligatory “do it for the children” post.

      • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

        Absolutely, don’t put a pool in unless you can keep your kids safe. People hate to get permits because of inspections that could find problems during installation and hold up their project another month.

        And if you think pool companies don’t cut corners and do the unsafe thing once in a while, you are more trusting than I.

        • mythago says:

          One of the main reasons we got the house we live in is that the previous owners had kids. Despite having very good safety fencing, they were (quite understandably) terrified of what would happen if a toddler figured out a way over the fence.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          my parents were so worried when they put in a pool, that aside from the fence with a locked gate and teaching me and my sister to swim, my mom, a former lifeguard, gave free swimming lessons to the whole neighborhood. it makes sense since my sister and i taught all the kids in the neighborhood how to climb the fences and trees to get into our backyard.
          no kid ever got near that pool without my mom at least teaching them to float if they panicked.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Not sure how this is relevent to whether or not someone paid for a permit for their pool. Most likely, someone paid a legitimate contractor to build their pool, and it follows required safety codes. It’s just they didn’t obtain the permit to build it.
      I don’t think people are following Consumerist readers’ typical advice, and making their own pools at home.

      And I agree with the guy below me: obligatory “think of the children” post.

      • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

        “Riverhead’s chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said the unpermitted pools were a safety concern. He said that without the required inspections there was no way to know whether the pools’ plumbing, electrical work and fencing met state and local regulations.”

        And if you knew anything about Long Island, you’d know kids drown all the time down there because parents don’t want to dish out the money for the fence.

      • Rachacha says:

        Not necessarially. The “inflatable” pools that have been popular over the past several years where you blow up the top ring and simply fill the pool up with water and run a pump and filter to keep it clean are very easy for a homeoner to install themselves. Also, Fixed above ground pools are relatively easy to install yourself if you are somewhat handy and have a relatively flat yard. All you need to do is clear the ground to the appropriate diameter, making sure to remove any rocks (shovel and rake), lay down a metal ring and start bolting all of the pieces together.

    • wetrat says:

      Hmm.. a discrete pool would be interesting to imagine (as opposed to, say, a continuous pool).

      (discrete =/= discreet)

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Agree. Current code requires self closing, self locking gates on the fences, and alarms on all the doors that open to the part of the yard with the pool. I certainly wouldn’t want to own a pool without having those things.

    • BuddhaLite says:

      So if I don’t have kids but you do and they trespass on my property and drown that’s some how my fault. Hell no.

      • pot_roast says:

        Actually, it IS your fault. There is ample legal precedence for this too. You can very easily be sued if a kid trespasses on your property and drowns in your pool.

        • Gramin says:

          Pot is correct. In fact, most municipalities require either (a) a fence around the pool or (b) a fenced in yard. This is to prevent children from wandering into your pool.

          • Zowzers says:

            Which is, for lack of a better word, ridiculous.

          • Dallas_shopper says:

            Which is why I will never put in a pool. I can’t be there 24 hours a day and I’ll be damned if I’m sued by some dumb kid’s parents because the kid was dumb enough to trespass in my yard and swim in my pool unsupervised.

      • annodyne says:

        two words: attractive nuisance. so yeah you’d need high fence, with lockable gate plus visual barrier plus pool alarm, insurance, etc everything possible a reasonable man could get to protect idiots from getting into your pool.

  4. sgtyukon says:

    IIRC, some municipalities used less sophisticated, black and white aerial photos for the same purpose years ago. They caught some permitless and unassessed swimming pools, but since they started enforcement without checking on the ground, they also tried to put some plowed up areas such as large gardens on the assessment rolls, because the dark areas of plowed soil looked like the dark areas of water in a pool would look in black and white photos.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      There was a guy who would roll out a big plastic sheet in the shape of a pool each year when the planes flew over. (he knew when) I’d guess he even put out some blow up toys and lawn furniture. Year after year, they’d bill him, he’d complain, they’d come out and physically walk the property and make the adjustment. When he got caught, he was charged with harassment.

      • TheUncleBob says:

        Any idea of those charges stuck?
        I’d love to know more about this…

        • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

          It was an example in a Business Law course I took. It was kind of a stuffy class to burst out laughing in.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        You’d think county assessor’s would use any of the widely available infrared digital orthophotographs that are out there; most states have statewide coverage at 1 ft resolution. Things like swimming pools really stick out

  5. thewildboo says:

    If you have the pool illegally (ie without a permit) then you have nothing to complain about when you get caught. If it’s just a paperwork discrepancy, that can be resolved.

  6. Trick says:

    They haven’t found my indoor pool or underground Thai lady-boy bar and they never will.

  7. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I have no idea why that picture makes me laugh so hard. Please Halp!

  8. voogru says:

    Why does this remind me of the green police superbowl commercial…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVhT7P0lDfI

  9. A Pimp Named DaveR says:

    That’s not a pool….. that’s a battle station!

  10. WelcomeToOakas says:

    Now I can put my plan to sell grass imprinted pool covers into action. For those who have already been fined, I also have covers that say “Riverhead sucks.”

  11. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Our county recently did a complete reassessment, and found whole houses that weren’t on the tax rolls!! One was assessed at $400K. The last assessment was done in the 1970′s, and many people who lived in the nether regions of the county added, improved, and otherwise upgraded and never reported this to the county so their taxes wouldn’t increase.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      What country do you live in that doesn’t re-assess their land for 40 years?

      • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

        Yes, I wish to become a resident. Sign me up.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        A rural county in PA with not a lot of tax revenue. And it was annoying (as a taxpayer myself) to know I had to pay property taxes on my meager little house when a $400K house was skating by scott free. In our township, we have to pay a minimal permit fee, I believe it’s $10, and get approval for additions, etc. This is reported to the county and thus property taxes are adjusted accordingly. People who live out of sight got away with quite a bit over the years.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I just looked it up – the last assessment was done in 1973 after the Hurricane Agnes flooding in 1972. I think it was done then because some properties simply didn’t exist after the flood. The next assessment was Spring 2008, before the housing bubble broke.

      • mac-phisto says:

        it’s not quite as great as it sounds. i used to live in PA myself & while it sounds great to not have an assessment in such a long time, it actually just translates into higher mill rates & disproportionate tax rates (as the poster indicates). this can also stifle growth since new construction will be valued at today’s prices, meaning that a new construction will pay thousands of dollars more in taxes every year.

  12. denros says:

    Little do they know, my pool was built with illegal immigrant child labor, filled with water I stole from my neighbor’s water main, and heated using burning barrels filled with tax documents I falsified. Google Earth THAT, town of Riverhead!

  13. pantheonoutcast says:

    I’m not surprised it’s Long Island. I grew up there, and if it’s one thing they’re not known for, it’s privacy.

    We had a pool in our backyard, and I can distinctly remember the day that some guy, who none of us knew, came striding into our yard during a BBQ and announced, without identifying himself, to my stunned parents and friends, “Someone told me you have a pool in your yard.”

    My father, very calmly, responded, “Did that same person also tell you I had a gun?”

    The man left. Quickly. We had no idea who he was, or why he was there. Flash forward a week later, and my father gets a summons because we had a pool but didn’t get a permit.

    Turns out, the town was sending “inspectors” to basically wander into people’s yards to see if they were violating any town ordinances. The mystery guy had visited every house on our block – all of our neighbors showed up to the courthouse on the appointed night of the summons.

    Yes, in case you were wondering, all summonses were dismissed.

    • dg says:

      An administrative inspection is a search under the 4th amendment. It requires a warrant to be issued upon cause (I say “cause” because I have too much blood in my caffeinestream right now, and cant remember if it’s probable or reasonable cause).

      The US Sup Case is Camera v. San Francisco – Circa 1970. Just walking into the backyard is a violation of the 4th amendment.

      The “Google Earth” angle is an interesting argument because it’s technically “visible” to the Public. However, what one declares or intends to be private, is to be considered as such and they’d be back to getting a warrant. What I’d do is get everyone to serve the city government with Notice that the property, surrounding grounds, appurtenances thereto, and any outbuildings are considered private property, and subject to No Trespass.

      Then if they pull that shit – you’ve got a leg to stand on with more US Sup Ct Case law…

      Finally, I’d contact Google and have them blur out the property. Finding a business on Street View so you can avail yourself of it’s services is one thing. Searching for code violations because the People find the regulations or costs thereto to be too onerous and then fining said people for non-compliance sans warrant is bullshit.

      Now if they want to swear out a warrant based upon cause (say a tip from a neighbor not invited to the party), and the warrant says they can look for a pool in-person on-premises, or via satellite photo – then more power to them. But go to Court and swear out a warrant for EVERY property that you want to do this for. Cities are reticent to do so because it will cost them time and money – which cuts into that which they’re trying to extort from the people they’re violating the rights of…

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        But your property does not extend upwards to infinity. Once they are over that height, your trespass trick would not work. And even if Google blurs it out, they are not the only game in the satellite imagery town. I mean, the town could technically hire a hot air balloon, and get a telescope…..

        • dg says:

          I’d give you that except that they’re using it to conduct a search, so I don’t see why there should be a limit.

          I can’t remember the case right now – but the government tried this argument with remote heat or millimeter-wave radar to see through walls w/o a warrant and Judges smacked them on it…

          I’ll also give you the Google Earth v. other services – but there’s only a few providers of the photos – Google used to buy theirs from someone (forgot who) before they got their own satellite (or leased someone’s)… So it wouldn’t take too much to send notice to all the purveyors of the photos…

          OR, an even better solution is having nice big fluffy maple, oak, or elm trees that shade your property… They also tend to cover up lots of other things underneath :-)

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            Ah, but within your walls, you have an expectation of privacy. THAT’S where the 4th amendment comes in. But in your yard, you don’t have a complete expectation of privacy unless you wall it in. IIRC, flyovers of fields to spot marijuana growth(they will plant a pot patch in the center of a huge field, so it is impossible to see from ground level) is legal, because there is no expectation of privacy outdoors like that.

            • dg says:

              Yeah, but that’s an agricultural field v. a home back yard – big difference from a privacy aspect. If the government started having anti-grav floating balls up in the sky watching your neighborhood – that’d be an issue right?

              This really isn’t much different – satellites aren’t really anti-grav, but they are floating balls up in the sky watching your neighborhood. The potential for a slippery slope where the camel comes flying down the side and jams his nose completely under the tent and wrecks it is high. Best to smack that camel’s nose right now before things get completely out of hand.

              Yeah, the pool w/o a permit thing is costing towns money in lost revenue. But they have to ask themselves WHY people aren’t complying rather than trying to force them to get more creative. If the tax increase is too high – then maybe limiting it would get compliance? Or have an annual permit fee that’s not too onerous but no tax increase – make it a $1000 fee when the house is sold…

              But shafting people is what causes these compliance issues. Towns never feel enough is enough and next thing you know, they want to inspect, control the chemicals used, require fencing, hours of operation, etc… It becomes a royal PITA and impediment to enjoying a pool, so people just put it in and keep their mouths shut….

          • myCatCracksMeUp says:

            Problem is that the nice big fluffy maple, oak, or elm trees will also completly shade the pool, and drop leaves and twigs into the pool.

            Also – I can see why using remote heat or millimeter-wave radar to see through walls w/o a warrant would get smacked down. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside their house.

            But in your back yard there is no expectation of privacy from the air. We have a pool in Fairfax Co. VA and very low flying planes and helicoptors fly overhead all the time. (Only once when I’ve been sunbathing has a helicoptor circled back over. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.). I think using satelite maps, or in places like ours, the aerial views from Google planes, will be allowed as a reason to demand compliance with building permit laws.

    • lawgirl502 says:

      That’s fricken hilarious!

    • lawgirl502 says:

      I know-if Google Earth has your pool within its sites, then simply put a green pool cover over it-maybe it will appear as grass to the eye in the sky

  14. savethecirclepit says:

    War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.
    BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!!!!

    • XTC46 says:

      Yes, and apprently has to becasue so many people refuse to follow simple zoning and permit laws.

    • Chaosium says:

      Of all the potential uses of “big brother”, I’m fine with this.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Oh for frack’s sake. It’s not like they’re installing cameras in your TV or something. If you don’t like paying for the proper permits, either 1) do without a pool or 2) move.

    • vastrightwing says:

      If only they were just watching. I wouldn’t mind that. It’s when they start interfering, I start minding.

  15. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    People in some areas (probably not Long Island) can have their pools listed as fire reserves. The fire department can come take the water whenever they need it. I know one lady who does, but she lives in a fire prone forest area.

  16. Emily says:

    Time for pools with a grass-colored bottom? Wonder if that would work…

  17. Mackinstyle1 says:

    Basic change detection algorithms from any decent resolution multispectral imagery (not google earth) can easily let you determine who has made additions to their houses (if you have a decent archive of building footprints, which most cities do)

  18. Beeker26 says:

    Having spent a number of my teenage years in Riverhead I’m not surprised to find out it’s still a shithole.

  19. drburk says:

    Usually GIS mapping services don’t have the ability to automatically asses property changes so you either have to do it manually or use an outside company that runs the process. Pictometry.com provides the imagery used by these services.
    Geo Estimator and Eagle View serve the roofing industry to provide roof measurements within 4% accuracy (better than hand measuring).
    My municipality checks for pools, room additions, sheds, decks and much more every few years. Not only to check on permits but to asses for property taxes.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Many assessor’s offices have sophisticated GIS systems and can either obtain base data free from the state or contract it out. It would be very easy to get 1 ft resolution IR band orthophotos or contract out 6″ resolution for very little. A typical geography undergrad possesses the skills to automatically identify pools or compare different years looking additions and new outbuildings.

      • parv says:

        GIS seems like a more secure (compared to others) career. It could be a change of pace for me from software development & DBA’tion. 3-4 years of yet another degree however seems a chore though. Any opinions?

  20. MoonstarGem says:

    I’m waiting for someone to somehow pull the “they searched my property with a warrant.” card on this, don’t think it would work, considering it was done from GE, but I’m still expecting it.

  21. NYGuy1976 says:

    Assuming that these people hired a contractor to build the pool wouldnt they ( the contractor) need to see a permit before performing work.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      Its the contractor’s responsibility to get the permit from what I was always told.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Yuppers, unless the contractor specifically states that you need to provide it. Also, in most areas, if the inspector shows up during construction, the contractor gets the fine.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          knowing what i know about you, this makes me giggle. a lot. and i remember when you looked that up so i know to what you are referring

      • drburk says:

        It is the Contractor’s responsibility but all long time contractors know where they will get caught and where they won’t. Usually they will charge the homeowner for the permit and not pull it; permit fees for a pool are going to be a few hundred dollars.
        It’s becoming more common for Contractor’s to have the homeowner pull permits because of the liability issue.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        It depends on the contract. Many contractors specifically don’t want to deal with them and know which jurisdictions they can get away with working w/out a permit.

        Also, putting a pool in isn’t rocket science. All it takes is renting a backhoe and bringing in a concrete truck — the concrete company isn’t going to care if there’s a permit or not.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          It’s a lot more complicated than that.

          First the earth underneath and surrounding the pool has to be undisturbed. There has to be rebar, there has to be the right types of drains and skimmers and returns. The Electrical for the pump and filter has to be grounded just so. The pumps, filters, and heaters have to be sized correctly. And there are safety requirements, like fencing, self-closing, self-latching gates, and alarms on the back doors.

          A reputable pool company will get the permits, and just as importantly, they will make sure all the inspections on the permits are completed.

    • gabrewer says:

      That’s what puzzled me about this story. In the area I live, if you use any reputable, licensed and insured contractor for a home improvement or addition, taking care of all the permits, etc. is typically part of the whole process on their part.

    • Bodger says:

      Actually, if my understanding is correct, in almost any jurisdiction a licensed general contractor would be the one to apply for and obtain the proper permits — owners, unless they are acting as their own general contractor, never get involved beyond paying the costs. Of course in almost any jurisdiction the government and the contractors have an “understanding” and almost never get involved no matter how egregious the contractors malfeasance unless someone dies as a result. Contractors seem to have a teflon coating no matter where you go.

  22. Jemaine says:

    Unless the townspeople have a reason to be in the backyard physically, I don’t see why it should matter. Some laws that are vehicle related, e.i. texting, no seat belt; the policeman has to have another reason to pull the person over first. Hopefully that made sense.

    • CookiePuss says:

      That depends on the state. In Jersey they can pull you over if your not wearing a seatbelt. Shit, one time I was parked in front of a store waiting for a friend and a cop on foot walked up to my car and wrote me a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt! I wanted to keep pulling away by a few feet every time he ran up to the window but in that town he probably would’ve shot me and left the seatbelt ticket on my dead body. :P

      • Difdi says:

        I recall reading a story about a guy who got a ticket for not wearing his seatbelt in his own driveway.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        When I took drivers ed, I was told that anytime the car is on (even if its in park) you should have a seatbelt on. I don’t know if its law or not. We were also told to adjust all our mirrors and seat position BEFORE turning the car on.

    • lawgirl502 says:

      he he…you said townspeople

  23. jenjenjen says:

    Huh, here in ForeclosureLand, I mean, Southern California, they were using planes to identify vacant houses with untended pools so they could spray them against mosquitoes and hopefully prevent transmission of disease. Long Island sounds way classier.

  24. Kahless says:

    This is perfectly legal for mean reasons. Mainly due to the fact that the pools are being discovered from off the law breakers property. Once identified that a law is being broken they are giving out summons or sending someone to personally check. For instance in NYS if you are pulled over by a police officer they are allowed to search your car from the outside looking in, and if they detect and illegal substance then they are allowed to search your vehicle without permission. Since your property does not extend into the sky indefinitely, actually i dont think it extends at all, then no law is being broken from using this method.

    • bubby1124 says:

      Not just in New York, its called “In plain view.” Samething as if a police officer comes to your door at home to tell ask you a question and he sees drugs from the door, he then has probable cause arrest you.

  25. bubby1124 says:

    I think the new “Bird’s Eye View” on Bing maps is more detailed than Google Earth. Bing uses aerial photographs so it has a closer view.

    http://www.bing.com/maps

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Google Maps also has aerial views of most of the more populated areas. I can’t use Google Earth here at work so I don’t know about that.

  26. Sparty999 says:

    da gov’ment gettin’ in all o’ our bidness…

  27. Angry JD says:

    RCRA Hazardous Waste Permit Violations. I use google earth here at EPA.

  28. peebozi says:

    i think this will work more effectively if efforts such as these are contracted out to 3rd party, private corporations. We can give them the rights of the state without limiting the state’s responsibilities to the US Constitution…after all, provate companies entering into a contract with a municipality can argue they do not need to be constrained by certain privacy restrictions that hamper local governments and have these restrictions lifted, contractually. This is another attempt by the government to steal profits of the private sector.

  29. Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

    The picture of my neighborhood on Google shows a car sitting in my next-door neighbor’s front yard… can someone do something about that, please?

  30. aen says:

    I got a buddy whose family built their house and never received a final inspection. Every time an inspector came by, they’d tell him that they were still working on it, eventually they stopped coming. So of course they’re not paying full taxes and it’d be a huge issue if ever they wanted to sell. However, they’re part of the John Birch society and anyone coming to collect taxes is a commie and would be shot.

  31. Frank The Tank says:

    Yeah…my town….who charges me upward of $7,000 a year for taxes….

    The same town who, upon me grieving my taxes, told me that they could NOT use an APPRAISAL that I PAID for – because the owner was in divorce proceedings and therefore the sale was not at arms length.

    Yeah…divorce records are SEALED….not public knowledge….

  32. ARPRINCE says:

    The link says 250 pools!!!! Buttom line, the building department for that city were not doing their jobs checking on illegal or no-permit constructions. In where I am, these predators (I meant bldg. officers) roam the city checking for these type of stuff.