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Town Considers Upping Application Fees

Thu, 09/22/2022 - 10:22

The East Hampton Town Planning Department, citing the time and expertise required to process applications, has proposed updated fees.

The fees were last updated in 2016. “We wanted to make sure that we were being fair to the broadest segment of the taxpayers” of the town, Jeremy Samuelson, director of the Planning Department, told the town board on Tuesday. “We had a goal for not making any of the fees onerous: We don’t want these to be barriers to entry to anybody who seeks the services of our department.”

But some application processes “are quite involved,” he said, requiring, for example, attention of the attorney’s office, the town board, the planning board, the Building Department, and the fire marshal. If applicants aren’t asked to “shoulder the majority of the burden for the service that they are asking us to perform,” the town’s other taxpayers “are picking up that tab.” A property owner who will benefit from a permit issued “should be the one that should shoulder that actual cost of the technical analysis and the expertise, regardless of which department needs to be involved in the process.”

Also speaking Tuesday, Eric Schantz, the assistant planning director, gave as an example the architectural review board fee for a proposed business sign permit, which is presently $100 and proposed to rise to $250. While not “a huge project,” such an application nonetheless requires involvement of nine people: Mr. Schantz; the review board’s secretary; a third Planning Department staffer; a town attorney, and the five-member board itself. “That’s one of the more minor types of applications that we process,” he said.

The majority of applications the A.R.B. processes in agricultural overlay districts, he said, are for new, single-family residences, generally large buildings south of Montauk Highway or on Further Lane, “by virtue of the fact that that’s where our agricultural overlay districts are.” These require a lot of work by the A.R.B., he said, similar to what the planning board devotes to site plan applications. “As you know, those site plan applications are rarely resolved in one meeting in front of the planning board,” he said. “They often come back four times, sometimes more, depending on the application. That’s been the case with these agricultural overlay applications as well.” The A.R.B.’s present $200 fee in an agricultural overlay district “is not reflective of the amount of work done, not only by our department but by various departments,” he said. He proposed an increase to $350 plus $150 per 500 square feet of area proposed. (Actual agricultural buildings are exempt from an application fee.)

“Modest but appropriate” increases in fees for planning board applications should also be implemented, Mr. Schantz said. The fee for a preliminary subdivision application would rise from $950 plus $775 per lot to $1,000 plus $800 per lot, for example.

The proposed redevelopment of the former Wainscott sand and gravel pit into a 50-lot commercial and industrial subdivision has had multiple reviews by the planning board and may go to a public hearing soon, Mr. Schantz said, “which requires all sorts of additional staff that review those applications” and multiple meetings of the seven-member planning board. “We’re not looking to have the applicant pay the full price of processing an application,” he said. “We’re looking to do the best we can to offset those fees that are incurred to do the proper review of them.”

Tyler Borsack of the Planning Department discussed proposed increases to fees assessed with applications before the zoning board of appeals, and Mr. Schantz went over proposed fee increases for urban renewal road improvement and map modification applications. The town does not have an in-house engineer. Rather, an outside consultant reviews engineering matters related to urban renewal projects. The present fees are “really not reflective of the cost that the town is incurring to hire that outside consultant and the amount of work that’s going into it,” he said.

“I appreciate the fact that the departments have been looking at fee schedules,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “Costs do go up, there is quite an amount of resources committed to reviewing applications, so I think it is time we adjust these fees.”

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