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Southold ZBA requests fees to be increased for applications such as home decks, swimming pools

The Southold Zoning Board of Appeals is calling for fee hikes that would double the cost for as-built structures.

According to ZBA chair Leslie Weisman, fees have remained the same since 2011 and in those nine years, the board has seen an influx of applications for as-built structures. 

“It’s time that we look at this,” she said Tuesday, as she presented the Town Board with a list of fees charged elsewhere. Other East End towns, including Shelter Island and Southampton, also double the fees for work done without a permit.

Data collected by the ZBA shows that from March 2018 through Feb. 20 of this year, 45 variances were granted for as-built structures including home additions, decks, swimming pools, fencing and sheds, resulting in $32,300 in application fees. Doubling the as-built fees would have generated $64,600 in revenue for the town, according to the spreadsheet.

“The revenue we have lost by not doing what other municipalities do is substantial,” Ms. Weisman said.

Supervisor Scott Russell, who agreed that the fees for as-built structures should be doubled, suggested the fees take into account what kind of variance is being granted. 

“If you’re conveying real property value, it’s fair to charge more,” he said, using the example of an addition to a home’s living space to a deck.

Ms. Weisman said the ZBA only considers the square footage of a variance. 

“It’s based on size,” she said. “The board sees 15 feet as 15 feet.”

Councilman Jim Dinizio argued that the ZBA exists to grant relief from the code, not to grant equity to property owners. 

“I understand coming from a tax assessor background, but that Zoning Board doesn’t exist for that … you’re stepping way out of bounds here,” he said.

Ms. Weisman, who said the ZBA is “choked” with applications, urged the Town Board to consider raising other fees, such as special exception permits for commercial properties that could potentially produce more revenue.

She also suggested the board add an extension fee to be consistent with the Trustees’ and building department rules.

While on the topic of fees, Ms. Weisman also raised issues with the town’s special events code, which allows up to six events, such as weddings, to be grouped together under one $150 application. 

“It’s too cheap,” she said. 

Mr. Dinizio noted that many businesses submit nonspecific applications to obtain permits as a way of blocking off dates, so that the dates are set aside when people call to book an event.

While discussions on those other fees continue, the board agreed to prioritize doubling the fee for as-built structures, which Ms. Weisman identified as the most pressing issue. A public hearing is set for Tuesday, April 7 at 7 p.m.

The Town Board is also poised to pursue increases for fees associated  with the town Trustees. They are expected to set a public hearing at their next meeting on March 10.