If you’ve been thinking about replacing or fixing up your garage, this summer is the time to do it.
Monday night the village council approved a temporary moratorium on the permit fees charged by the village for the construction, demolition, and repair of garages. The moratorium goes into effect immediately and runs through August 31. The measure was approved with a 4-1 vote.
Commissioner Mike Curry proposed the fee moratorium, which he said was initially suggested by veteran building inspector Bob Teets. Curry said the moratorium will provide an incentive for homeowners to improve their garages and make the village a better, safer place to live. He speculated that any revenues that would have been generated by the permits themselves will be made up through property taxes collected on the improved structures.
“The short term detriment of losing a few thousand dollars is exceeded tremendously by the long term benefits of the revenue generated through taxes, and also having a clean and safe community,” Curry said.
During a council discussion on the waiver last month, Curry implied the moratorium would also help three property owners on Circle Avenue whose garages were burned in a string of suspected arsons. However, it was revealed at the June 9 meeting that those residents have already been given a pass on the costs associated with the reconstruction of their garages.
Commissioner Marty Tellalian opposed the moratorium, arguing that it was not the right thing to do when the village is facing a deficit of more than $700,000.
“I don’t think this is a good precedent for us to be setting,” Tellalian said. “If we were thinking of doing something like this there are other, better targets.”
Tellalian said that similar waivers for front porches and new windows would be preferred.
The average permit fee for a new garage is about $140 to $145, according to Director Mike Boyle of the Department of Public Health and Safety.
Village Administrator Mike Sturino said he could not estimate the net change in revenue the village might see as a result of the waiver.
“I don’t think there is a clear cut model for projecting an actual fiscal impact,” Sturino said when questioned by Tellalian.
Sturino did not make any specific recommendations to the council on the subject, and said that matters of policy are for the commissioners to decide. He did, however, suggest that the decision to waive the permit fee for garage construction has its attributes
“I think this is, on balance, a positive move,” Sturino said. “I don’t think there are too many downsides.”
Mayor Anthony Calderone strongly supported the waiver.
“When garages are in disrepair, they’re a haven for rats and other wildlife,” Calderone said. “Overall this is an inducement that is going to aid the health, safety, and welfare of the community.”
Prior to the council’s vote to approve the moratorium, village staff had already waived the fees for three residents on Circle Avenue. In April, three garages along the 1000 block of Circle Avenue were destroyed by a trio of suspected arsonists. Boyle said that decision was made by his staff with the support of Calderone, Curry and the village administrator.
“We have administratively waived their permit fees because we have three property owners who were the victims of arson,” Calderone said.
Tellalian suggested that the decision simply reduced the cost to those homeowners’ insurance companies and didn’t save the individual residents any money. However, it became apparent that no one on the council could say for sure whether the insurance policies for the affected residents covered the cost of permits associated with reconstruction.
As a matter of policy, Tellalian said he is opposed to granting such waivers and that the practice smacks of impropriety. The mayor, however, said the decision to waive the fee for the three residents on Circle Avenue was driven by special circumstances.
“This was an idea from the building department as a gesture to help soften the impact of what these folks were devastated by,” Calderone said. “This is a stand alone instance. I don’t remember the last time that we had three cases of arson, especially all within a one week period of time.”