The village council is poised to approve a temporary moratorium on permit fees for building and renovating garages in Forest Park at its next meeting on June 9.
The idea was discussed by council members at their meeting May 27, and appeared to have enough support to win approval. Only Commissioner Marty Tellalian expressed opposition.
“I think this is a catalyst to help clean up Forest Park,” Mike Curry, the commissioner of Public Health and Safety, said. “Short term there will be a slight loss of revenue. However, long term the revenue generated will be 10-fold, not only with property taxes, but also with business sales taxes. If Forest Park is not a good, safe community, people are not going to want to live here, people are not going to want to shop here, and they’re not going to want to work in our village.”
The proposed moratorium is expected to last for 30 to 60 days. The impetus behind the idea comes partially as a response to the damage that was sustained by three garages on the 1000 block of Circle Avenue in April. Three juveniles have been charged with setting those garages on fire.
The cost of a permit to construct a new garage is calculated at $3 per cubic-foot. For a typical structure, this usually comes out to about $140, according to Michael Boyle, the head of the Department of Public Health and Safety. During the month of August in 2007, nine permits for new garages were issued, according to the village.
The temporary waiver would also apply to fees for garage improvements.
The proposed moratorium comes on top of a new municipal spending plan that does not include any fee increases within the building department. During a recent budget hearing for fiscal year 2009, administrators highlighted this component of the proposed budget. The strategy is vastly different from only a year ago when Boyle and Village Administrator Mike Sturino recommended revisiting the fee schedule so that “fees better match the village’s costs of providing the service,” according to a June 2007 budget memo on revenue enhancements.
Tellalian questioned why garages are being singled out for special treatment and said that the savings would mostly go to insurance companies rather than the owners of the three garages that were recently damaged.
“We’re only likely cutting the fee to the insurance company,” Tellalian said. “The owner will pay their deductible and the new garage will be built.”
The commissioner further argued that the village was not in a position to be waiving fees. Forest Park is projecting a 2008 budget deficit of more than $700,000. The 2009 budget proposal, which is yet to be approved, has a scant $28,900 margin.
“We’re facing a deficit in the previous fiscal year and we have to be careful,” Tellalian said.
Tellalian also said if the village is going to waive permit fees he would rather do so for construction projects that would reduce energy consumption, such as replacement windows, or for repairing porches and other potential safety hazards.
Mayor Anthony Calderone spoke in support of suspending the permit fees for garage construction and added that he is open to considering such waivers for new windows and porch improvements.
“I think that this is a good initiative in terms of providing an inducement for people to take small steps in improving their property,” Calderone said. “There certainly were other options that were expressed tonight and if any commissioner wanted to bring those forward in the future … I think it would be great for the community to open up a window as an inducement to get people to improve their property. This is just a first step.”