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Building Inspector calls for building fee hike

JULIE LANE PHOTO Building Inspector Reed Karen made a case to the Town Board Friday for hiking building permit fees that have been unchanged for 10 years.
JULIE LANE PHOTOBuilding Inspector Reed Karen made a case to the Town Board Friday for hiking building permit fees that have been unchanged for 10 years.

Citing permit fees that are far below those charged by other area towns, Building Inspector Reed Karen proposed a revision that would raise costs, while still keeping them at a reasonable level for low-priced projects.

Speaking to the Town Board at Friday’s work session, Mr. Karen described Shelter Island as being “dead last” with the lowest fee structure of any town in the area. Mr. Karen noted no changes have been made in 10 years and most of those were minimal.

He presented his proposed increases in a draft that the Town Board is considering and could make changes. What’s new is that instead of charging flat fees for building permits based on square footage alone, the new fee structure would take into account the estimated cost of construction and the complexity of a project.

Including complexity as a factor reflects the actual amount of work Building Department personnel have to do in overseeing a project and ultimately granting a certificate of occupancy when work is completed. Larger and generally more complex structures require a great deal more oversight than simple projects, Mr. Karen explained.

For example, a more expensive house is likely to have more bathrooms, a more sophisticated heating and ventilation system and other amenities, he said. He and his colleagues developed a proposal that takes into account the various complexities that gives an applicant a simple way to understand how their building permit fees are developed.

In addition to the basic complexities, people building larger, more expensive houses are more apt to make changes to their plans during construction and that requires additional oversight, he said.

His proposal would keep fees lower for simple starter homes on the Island, Mr. Karen said.

The board agreed to support an effort by state legislators to create an East End Tourism Alliance. But that’s a long way from agreeing to joining such an alliance.

Chamber of Commerce President Art Williams told the board if the town does elect to join an alliance, it could help to obtain grants that could pay for more events on the Island, especially in the off-season.

Board members worried Shelter Island would be lumped into a group where the local voice would have little impact on decisions that might be good for the Hamptons, but not the Island.

For the moment, though, the board agreed to support the enabling legislation necessary to forming an alliance and agreed if its created to take a closer look at what Shelter Island has to gain or lose by joining the group.

What’s known at this point is that if the legislation passes, it would cost Island hotels and B&Bs a $1 fee per room per night. With the money collected, 3 percent would go to administrative fees for Suffolk County to administer the program, 75 percent to the alliance for its operations and the balance to the Island to be used to promote tourism locally.

After the Waterways Management Advisory Council (WMAC) voted 3-3 on an application from Peter Levensen to replace a dock in Dering Harbor, the Town Board was to be the final decision-maker.

Instead, the board sent the application back to the WMAC for further discussion.

Councilman Paul Shepherd called the decision to send the issue back to WMAC “a cop-out,” but ultimately agreed with his colleagues to allow another review.
The board agreed to find another $500 to apply to the budget for a summer intern, bringing expense to $6,000 after members agreed work done by interns in the past ultimately saves the town money.