Berkeley Heights Considering Additional Zoning Permit Fees
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 • 7:35am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – A lengthy discussion on zoning permit fees ensued after Construction Official Robin Greenwald and Township Engineer Robert Vocchino made a presentation to the Township Council at its Tuesday, June 12 meeting about zoning permit fees in surrounding communities.
Currently, Berkeley Heights charges $50-$100 fees for fences, $40 for sheds and $50 for a retaining wall. Their
recommendation, which was well=received by the committee, also recommends fees for from $25 to $100 for patios, driveways (both new and repaved), a residential addition, exterior mechanical equipment, a new home, all other construction uses and alterations, resale of a home and review for a certificate of occupancy.
“We tried to come up with a list that goes along with applications our zoning officer sees. We based the (proposed) fees on the amount of work invested,” said Greenwald.
Mayor Joseph Bruno said noted, “We cheat ourselves on property assessed values. We have to bring ourselves into the 21st century as far as zoning issues areconcerned.”
Council President Kevin Hall agreed going henceforth, but was concerned about pre-existing conditions and suggested grandfathering.
The council recognized that has to be considered.
The current zoning officer is part-time, but the work in town is increasing. Bruno said there is a lot of building going on in town – new shops opening, homeowner additions and renovations, and restaurants.
Greenwald said the zoning officer is behind and she has received complaints.
Bruno asked, “What should we do? Make it a full-time position? Hire another part-time person to help? To let it be is not really an option.”
Council Vice President Craig Pastore wondered where the money would come from as the budget has already been completed and submitted.
The zoning officer is also the tree official and he has received a lot of requests for tree removals as a result of the October snow storm. But Greenwald said this is not the only reason for the back-up. “For April into May we received more than 100 building permit applications than in 2011.It has been a steady growth in permits. It’s a consistent thing every day.”
Attorney Joseph Sordillo noted any application to the zoning office must be responded to within 10 days, otherwise it’s considered approved.
Greenwald and Vocchino were asked to supply a more complete job analysis by type and month before the council decides on which direction to take.
After careful review of the figures, the council decided to inform New Providence, Millburn and Summit that Berkeley Heights will not be joining the Watchung Ridge Emergency Services Dispatch Center proposed for the four municipalities.
The cost per capita for operating expenses was estimated at $28.01 versus the current cost of $21.11.
The township will have to upgrade its own dispatch center because it is no longer up to date. This needs to be done as soon as possible at a cost of about $460,000. The earliest the shared center would be completed is in the third quarter of 2013. Even with the upgrades, Berkeley Heights will save $138,700 over three years by doing its own dispatching.
The upgrades were included in the capital budget.
Councilman Edward Delia said he and Pastore had done a walking tour of flood and erosion locations throughout Berkeley Heights with representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last week. They also got to visit with all of the residents who had complained to the DEP.
“Until you see the problems, it’s hard to figure out how to fix them,” he said. “We can pull trees out of the (Passaic) river without a permit, but debris is a different issue. That does need a permit.” He added streams can also be dealt with to remove natural dams caused by beavers, downed limbs and trees, debris, and general rubbish that is dumped into them.
He said the tour through town took five hours and the DEP is receptive to helping.