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Johnstown City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to pass a new city code fee schedule for 2022 that includes increased fees, a few new permit categories and a new “triple fee” penalty for anyone who would have “worked without a permit”. .”

City council member Tim Rizzo was the only one not to vote on the issue. Rizzo asked if the city should change fees or add permit categories without a local law and public hearing to change the city code.

Building inspector Todd Unislawski presented council with his proposed fee schedule for 2022 at Monday night’s meeting after presenting his monthly report for the first 24 days of January, which showed there were nine new building permits. build, for an estimated value of $89,875 of work done on city property. , with $1,180 collected in fees.

Unislawski said his office also conducted seven fire inspections, reviewed six projects presented to the city planning board, one for the city’s zoning appeals board, and had no complaints, but “two violations, both of which have been corrected.

Unislawski then addressed the issue of the proposed fee changes and some criticisms of his proposal by Rizzo.

“I would like to address a few concerns that have been raised, solely by Mr. Rizzo, regarding my proposed fee,” Unislawski said. “The Code Enforcement Office has revenue built into its budget. We derive this revenue from these fees. Currently (my department’s revenue) has been budgeted at $20,000.

Unislawski said the city’s revenue for permit fees has seen only one significant increase in recent years during the expansion of the CG Roxane Crystal Springs facility on Old Sweet Road. He said in 2021, his office issued 241 building permits on projects worth an estimated $10.1 million, from which the city was able to bill $17,841.

“For 2020, we issued exactly the same number of building permits, however, the total fees collected were less than $10,000, which shows the difference between the types of projects underway (in 2021) compared to ( 2020),” he said. “Now the proposed fee (2022) is the culmination of two years of work. It’s not something that I sat down one night and said, “Oh, let’s change them.” I cooperated with the surrounding authorities. I even asked the heads of the town planning board and the zoning board.

Unislawski said the increases are warranted in part to help pay for Planning Board and Zoning Appeal Board costs associated with certain construction projects, as well as costs incurred by his office in carrying out its duties. functions.

Rizzo wondered if the “triple royalty” penalty for doing construction work without a permit would cause Unislawski’s office to unfairly police city residents with “fines.”

Unislawski said the triple penalty would be a good deterrent, and he explained some of the difficulties in trying to enforce the city’s building permit rules.

“Someone is doing a (new) roof, stopped one last week that was done – they had done half the roof, didn’t have a permit and started doing it,” he said. declared. “There’s no way to verify that. Once the roof is done, the only way to (check) is to climb a ladder. We seek compliance, and sometimes you have to to achieve compliance.

Unislawski said some towns in Fulton County, like the town of Caroga, have stiffer penalties like a $250 fine for building without a permit.

Rizzo said he doesn’t understand how the city can enforce Unislawski’s proposed fee increases.

“You’ve been here about four years, and we’ve had these arguments about how we can’t even enforce the fine for mowing someone’s lawn unless we take them to court,” said Rizzo.

Unislawski said city attorney Leah Everhart told him the city had the authority to raise permit fees because they were user fees for city-provided services.

Everhart did not attend Monday’s city council meeting.

“I’d like to see that from Leah, because she didn’t tell us about it, and you have [talked] to her, but she could have told the board and she didn’t,” Rizzo said.

Unislawski said city residents might not want to pay the higher fee, but the city has costs it needs to recoup and it’s not fair for all ratepayers to pay the cost instead of residents. engaged in new construction activities.

“We have to charge to do this work. It’s all part of it,” Unislawski said.

Rizzo said he thinks many residents will feel penalized by the increases.

Supervisor Jack Wilson defended Unislawski’s work on the proposed fee change.

“It’s a user fee, nobody gets penalized,” Wilson said, addressing his comments to Rizzo. “I think it’s a good thing that Todd has been doing, spending a lot of time on it, talking about it many times over the last two years, going through this process for years, and all of a sudden, you have a problem with that.”

“Because you never brought that to the board Jack!” Rizzo said.

“Why would I bring it to the council?” exclaims Wilson. “He is presented to the board at the appropriate time.”

“Okay, when we get it through,” Rizzo said.

“Nothing is pushed!” said Wilson.

After discussing some of the details of Unislawski’s fee change proposal, Rizzo asked Wilson to provide council with an opinion from Everhart explaining council’s authority to raise user fees and enforce the “triple charge” penalty.

“So are we going to get something from Leah saying he has the right to charge triple the fee? I don’t think we can in our city code, Jack,” Rizzo said.

Wilson said he doesn’t think the council needs the city attorney’s “approval” to enact the user fee increases, but he said he would seek guidance on the matter, which which was included in the minutes of the city council.

After the meeting, Assistant Supervisor Christina VanValkenburgh said she understands the city derives its authority to charge building permit user fees from the New York State building code, and therefore schedule changes. user fees do not require a new municipal law.

VanValkenburgh also explained why she supported the change.

“Todd had gone through and compared our fees to all the local cities and found that our fees hadn’t gone up since 2011, that was the last time any of them had gone up, and he’s just trying to tell us bring it in line with the other cantons,” she said.

According to the 2022 fee schedule, here are the modified fees from 2021:

• Working Without a Permit: Will now be three times the fee of what the permit fee would have been.

• New fees that were not previously charged by the city: For residential solar energy that includes a structural building, the fee is now $50. For a terrace with solarium/roof, the fee is set at $50 and for “concrete slabs”, the fee is now $25.

• For residential solar: the permit will increase from $10 to $25.

• For permit and inspection fees for new residential dwellings: the new construction permit will remain at $200, but it will now be charged on projects equivalent to 1,500 square feet instead of the previous minimum of 2,000 square feet. The permit for modular homes will increase from $50 per bedroom to $75 per bedroom. The permit for new water wells will increase from $10 to $25, and for a new septic system it will increase from $25 to $45.

• For residential additions, alterations or renovations: the minimum permit fee will remain at $100, but the additional fee per square foot above the minimum will increase from 10 cents per square foot to 15 cents per square foot.

• For commercial additions, alterations or renovations: the minimum permit fee will increase from $100 to $150, and the fee per square foot above the minimum will increase from 25 cents per square foot to 45 cents per square foot.

• For demolition: for residential properties occupied by the owner, the costs will now be $25, instead of being free. For single-family and two-family residential properties, the fee will increase from $25 to $45.

• Commercial signage: permit fees will double from $25 to $50.

• Residential Signage: With Zoning Appeal Board approval, new residential signage will now include a $20 permit fee, instead of no fee.

• Fences abutting property lines: Permit fees will increase from $25 to $35.

• Bridges: Permit sensation will increase from $35 to $50.

• Pools: permit fees will increase from $25 to $45.

• Garages, carports: permit fees will increase from $50 to $60.

• Sheds: permit fees will remain at $10, but sheds are now defined as not exceeding 144 square feet.

• For residential roof repairs: permit fees will increase from $25 to $40.

• For commercial roof repairs: permit fees will increase from $25 to $75.

• Replacement siding and windows: Permit fees will increase from $10 to $25.

• Heaters: Permit fees will increase from $25 to $40.

• Plumbing, gas lines and water heaters: permit fees will increase from $10 to $25.

• Mobile home: permit fees will remain the same for a single width at $75, but will increase to $95 for a double width.

• Copies of any certificates, violations and orders: the fee will increase from $10 to $25.

• For a subdivision revision: the “lot line modification” fee will increase from $50 to $75. The “minor subdivision” fee will remain at $100, but there will be an additional $50 for each subdivided lot associated with the subdivision. The “large subdivision” fee will increase from $100 to $150 with an additional $50 fee for each subdivided lot associated with the subdivision.

• For site plan revisions: For a “minor site plan” defined as a one to two family residential property, the increase will increase from $50 to $100. Fees for “major site plans” defined as commercial properties will remain at $250. Special use permits for residential properties will increase from $50 to $60, and commercial special use permits will increase from $100 to $250. Permits for commercial signs will increase from $50 to $100.

• For Zoning Board of Appeals actions: the residential project fee will increase from $35 to $70 and the commercial project fee will increase from $75 to $125.