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Amherst hikes building permit fees Affects homeowners and developers

Want to add a new bathroom, garage or shed to your Amherst home? Be prepared to open your wallet a little wider.

With no discussion or fanfare, the Amherst Town Board unanimously approved a 20 percent average increase in 2009 town building permit fees Monday. Starting Jan. 1, it will cost homeowners more money to renovate or upgrade their existing homes.

It will also cost developers more to build new residential and commercial properties.

For instance, homebuilders will have to pay an additional $287 in construction, electrical and plumbing fees for a typical new single-family home. Permit fees would rise from $1,463 to $1,750 for a 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot home with 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 bathrooms, according to the new fee schedule.

Town residents interested in adding on to their existing homes would see fees jump from $77 to $90 for the first $1,000 of improvement costs for "alterations, additions and repairs," with an increase of $5.90 to $7.00 for every additional $1,000 in costs.

The fee increases are designed to produce an additional $330,000 in revenue for the town, Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum said. The higher fees have already been incorporated into Supervisor Satish Mohan's 2009 budget proposal to help compensate for the existing gap between expenses and revenues.

Ketchum cautioned, however, that the $330,000 figure assumes that townwide building activity remains at the same level next year as it has been for this year.

The Building Department has seen a decline in permit revenue this year, compared with last, he said. If that downward trend continues because of the worsening economy, the Building Department won't be able to meet its revenue goals.

In other news, the board voted, 4-3, against a resolution from Council Member Guy Marlette asking the town comptroller for her analysis of Supervisor Satish Mohan's $115.7 million budget proposal for 2009.

Marlette had put forth a resolution asking that Comptroller Darlene A. Carroll provide her observations regarding areas in the budget that may have been overfunded or underfunded, or overprojected or underprojected. He also asked for cost breakdowns of new and eliminated staff positions.

Mohan and Council Member Deborah Bruch Bucki argued that it was inappropriate and awkward to ask Carroll for such a report because she was serving as a budget director under the supervisor's authority when the budget was put together.

"For us to delegate that authority to her, I think it is wrong," Mohan said.

Council members are free to ask Carroll questions about the budget but not seek a formal, written report asking for her overall impressions, Mohan said.

Marlette, Council Member Mark Manna and Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones argued that while Carroll works with Mohan in preparing the budget, as the comptroller appointed by the Town Board, she is also supposed to serve as an independent voice of fiscal reason.

"She's part of the checks and balances of the system," Manna said.

Mohan and Council Members Bucki, Barry Weinstein and Shelly Schratz voted against the resolution. Manna, Marlette and Daniel Ward voted in favor.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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