The Zoning Board of Appeals is standing firm on its call for fee hikes despite some Town Board members who are suggesting that the proposed increases are too high.Councilmen Ed Brown and Paul Shepherd, at recent work sessions, were concerned that residents with minor projects would be hit too hard by the fee changes. On the other hand, Councilman Peter Reich has been on the record that he has no disagreement with the ZBA’s suggested fee changes.
The ZBA at its Wednesday night work session agreed that it doesn’t tend to see minor projects from low income residents. For a project to reach ZBA consideration, it’s something that fails to meet code, often because the proposed changes would be too close to lot lines. Other projects get ZBA attention because 50 percent or more of an original structure is being renovated or replaced.
Someone who wants to put a small shed on a lot wouldn’t have to come before the ZBA as long as the placement met boundary requirements, members said. The same would be true for someone putting in “mechanicals,” such as heating and air conditioning systems or uits. If those are placed on the property in such a way that they meet code, there’s no reason for a ZBA variance.
The ZBA fees haven’t been raised in 10 years. The time ZBA members are required to put in visiting sites and preparing materials for consideration aren’t covered by the old fees and wouldn’t be sufficient even with the new proposal, they said.
“These things do take work, time and money,” said member Phil DiOrio.
“I like what we came up with,” acting ZBA chairwoman Patricia Shillingburg said. She was chairing the meeting in the absence of ZBA Chairman Doug Matz.
Councilman Ed Brown led the charge on the Town Board in calling for lower fees.
Projects done without getting necessary variances in advance, already subject to Building Department charges of five times the fee, shouldn’t see a proposed double fee from the ZBA for its consideration of the application, Mr. Brown said.
What the ZBA has proposed and the Town Board has suggested are as follows:
• Variances on projects costing less than $5,000 currently cost $100 and the ZBA suggested charging $375 for two variances and extra fees if there are more for variances needed. They would raise the cost of projects to less than $20,000.
The Town Board would charge a straight $100 for small projects and $150 to $200 for projects costing less than $15,000.
• Variances on projects costing more than $5,000 currently incur a $500 ZBA fee and the ZBA proposed instead charging $750 for two variances on projects costing less than $20,000.
The Town Board would like to limit total variance fees to $400 to $500.
• Special permit fees for projects where more than 50 percent of a structure is being affected by changes is $500 and the ZBA would like to raise that to $1,000. The Town Board isn’t so sure that if there are variances for which the applicant is paying, there should also have to be a special permit fee.
• The ZBA currently doesn’t charge applicants who fail to complete projects on time and request an extension, but the ZBA suggests the extension fee should be 50 percent of the original application fee.
The Town Board thinks a $100 cost would be sufficient.
Nearby Greenport Village Building Inspector Eileen Wingate provided the fee structure used there:
• $400 for an area variance for residential and $500 for commercial buildings
• $600 for a use variance
• All Board of Appeals filings and examinations require a deposit of $200 for residential applications and $1,000 for commercial applications.
The Village plays hardball with those who file late and have begun work before filing applications. If a property owner receives a stop work order and continues work, fees triple.
In other business, the ZBA:
• Outlined its reasoning for an expected approval of an application from Scott Murphy to enlarge his house at 8 Chequit Avenue. The Heights Property Owners Corporation had previously weighed in supporting the application.
The existing house is relatively small to accommodate the family’s needs and the proposed work if being done on the road side, not the water side where it could clock scenic vistas, according to Mr. DiOrio. Mr. Murphy has agreed that if his variances were granted, he wouldn’t ever seek to build a second story on the structure that would block water views for his neighbors.
• Outlined its expected approval of the application from Glen and Amy Grabelsky of 6 Sandpiper Road to construct an addition to their house 20 feet from the side yard line when code requires 25 feet. The existing structure is small and plans for expansion are modest, the ZBA concluded
Town Attorney Laury Dowd was to draft the approvals for an expected vote at the April 22 ZBA meeting.