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Southold Town Board hears appeal to raise certain fees

Application fees for wetland and coastal erosion permits could double in the near future under a proposal by the Southold Town Trustees.

Appealing to Town Board members at a work session Tuesday, Trustees president Glenn Goldsmith said the current fee structure is not in line with other agencies’ and doesn’t account for the increased workload on several town departments.

The proposal would see wetland and coastal erosion permit application fees increased from $250 to $500 and administrative permit fees increased from $100 to $150. Those three fees, Mr. Goldsmith said, have not been altered since 2005.

Permit amendments, transfers and pre-submission site meetings would all increase from $50 to $100 and applications for one-year extensions would rise from $50 to $75.

As-built fees, which are charged double the relevant application fee, would continue to be charged double the amount, while all other fees would remain the same. Nonconforming structures that predate the permitting requirements are generally exempt from such fees, officials said.

Mr. Goldsmith said that the workload and number of applications processed by the Trustees since 2005 is up nearly 70% and putting a strain on their resources. “It’s not just the Trustees office,” he said. “We involve the planning department, the legal department, building department. There’s a lot of town resources being maxed out in a sense.”

Mr. Goldsmith also noted that New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permits for larger projects such as bulkheads cost approximately $900.

The proposal received mixed support among Town Board members, who asked for more information before moving forward. “In two instances at least, you’re looking to double the [application fee,]” Councilman Bob Ghosio said. “It’d be nice to have a cost analysis to be able to justify that.” Supervisor Scott Russell suggested reviewing fees for other departments, including the Zoning Board of Appeals and building department, as the discussion on Trustee application fees continues.

In the meantime, the two entities are working together on a code amendment that would allow code enforcement officers to cite people for wetland violations. “Currently, only bay constables can enforce the wetland code,” town attorney Bill Duffy explained Tuesday morning. That’s largely because of language in the current code that specifically permits the director of code enforcement — a position that no longer exists — to write violations in wetland areas.

“[Code enforcement officers] may be out there and see a violation, but they can’t write it, they have to call the bay constables,” Mr. Duffy said, describing it as a waste of resources.

Town attorneys are currently working on a draft code amendment that would rectify the issue.