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ZBA fees to increase for first time in more than a decade in Southold Town

The Town of Southold has adjusted Zoning Board of Appeals fees for the first time in more than a decade.

Most fees have been doubled, with a few exceptions. For instance, area variance applications involving fences, accessory structures or accessory buildings, alterations or additions 200 square feet in floor area or more now cost $750 rather than $500. 

“Another round of doubling would make it a thousand per variance. That’s the average variance we get and will probably mostly affect people that have nonconforming older houses and want to stick a deck on the back, and we don’t want to break the bank for them,” said ZBA chair Leslie Weisman at a Town Board work session on Tuesday. “Sometimes they require more than one variance … If you double the variance fee for additional ones that’s going to start to add up. So $750 is pretty reasonable.”

Additional variance requests on applications will also now cost a flat $500 each, rather than $250 or $500 based on a sliding scale. A reversal of a notice of disapproval will cost $1,000 and appeal applications for interpretations of the Town Code have more than doubled in cost, from $300 to $1,000. Applications for a waiver of lot merger will cost $2,000 rather than $750.

“There’s two fees where I’m suggesting more than doubling and I will explain why. They are both because of the level of complexity and the amount of time that it takes the board to render a decision, coupled with the fact that if it’s approved, the equity for the homeowner is enormous,” Ms. Weisman said. “And that would be fee number four, which is an interpretation of town code, which until this board codifies some of those interpretations, becomes de facto code. And to do that requires us to go back and research original public hearings in the ‘60s. It’s a big deal, and you really need to get it right.” 

“And then the second thing that I’m suggesting a little bit more is for number 12, which is waiver of merger,” she added, emphasizing the work involved. “If you wind up with an extra building site that you’re going to sell for a million bucks, there’s already an exception for waiver upon death, which is fair, that was updated in 2010.”

Application fees will be doubled if improvements were completed without permits and approvals and ZBA application fees are nonrefundable, according to the adopted changes. 

“It’s not easy to change these fees that frequently,” she said. “It should do us just fine for a long time to come … We have a lot to lose so we can’t let the ball drop. Once stuff is gone, it’s gone. We have to be very vigilant and the challenges of writing these decisions now are exponentially harder, there’s no such thing as an easy side yard variance.” 

She added that she has been “carefully keeping a list of all the things the ZBA deals with that we will present as things that the Town Board should be looking at to change.”