Proposals for steep hikes in filing fees for certain planning department applications have been put on hold at the request of the town’s business advisory committee.

Members of the committee, which met for the first time immediately prior to Tuesday night’s town board meeting, said they were unaware of the proposed fee increases until Councilwoman Jodi Giglio mentioned them at the committee meeting. They asked Giglio and Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith — who are the town board’s co-liaisons to the new committee — to adjourn the hearings to allow the committee to review the proposals and offer comment.

Town building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree said many of the fees in question have been unchanged for years, even decades, and no longer come close to covering the town’s costs in processing and reviewing the applications.

For example, the fee for a residential minor subdivision has been a flat $50 since 1990, Murphree said. The minor subdivision application fee would increase to $500 plus $200 per lot under the proposal.

Surrounding towns charge much higher fees, Murphree said, noting examples from Southold, Southampton and Brookhaven.

Zuleika Hines of Riverhead said residents who want to subdivide “family lots” should not be subjected to such steep fee increases.

“They have been paying their fair share of taxes for many years,” Hines said. “You also need to look at the current climate and how SALT has impacted our communty,” Hines said, referring to the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions imposed by the federal tax reform legislation that went into effect this year.

“Having a 500-percent increase or a 1,000-percent increase just because we failed to look at it since 2003 doesn’t justify it,” she said. “You have to look at who in our comunity is actually utilizing it. If it’s a resident and they have lived here and it’s a family lot, at the end of the day, it is our constituents we’re looking at not Brookhaven or Southampton.”

Murphree said that the most time-consuming applications his office must deal with are for two-lot minor subdivisions because property owners don’t realize how complicated the process is under state law. They often don’t have legal representation or a licensed land surveyor, he said.

Business advisory committee member Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, asked the board to adjourn the hearing to a later date, in order to allow the business advisory committee to weigh in on the proposals.

The hearings were adourned to the May 22 board meeting, which is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.

The proposed fee increases include:

Residential minor subdivision application fee would increase to $500 plus $200 per lot under the proposal.

Application fee for a residential unmerger of lots or internal lot line change would increase from $20 to $500 plus $50 per lot.

Residential use variance application fees would rise from $150 to $500.

Residential area variances and ZBA interpretation application fees would increase from $150 to $300.

Commercial use variance and/or interpretation applications would increase from $500 to $1,000. 

Major subdivision application fee would increase from $250 to $500, plus $200 per lot for engineering fees (the per-lot fee would be unchanged);

Industrial subdivision sketch plan application fee would increaase from a flat fee of $100 to $500, plus $200 per lot.

Industrial subdivision preliminary plat application fee would be increased from $5 per acre to $20 per acre, if a sketch plan has been submitted. If a sketch plan has not been submitted, the industrial subdivision preliminary plat application fee would be increased from a flat fee of $100 to a fee of $500 plus $200 per lot, plus the preliminary plat fee of the greater of $500 or $20 per acre — up from $100 and $5 per acre.

The engineering fee for an industrial subdivision would be increased from. $100 to $500 per lot or per potential lot based on the maximum number thereof, to cover any potential engineering expense to the town.

Special permit application fees would double from $500 to $1,000 for an application which would result in construction of a building(s) or a disturbed area of less than 4,000 square feet. The special permit application fee for larger projects (4,000 square feet or more) would remain unchanged at $2,000.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.