BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Building permit fees will soon be going up in the township.
Construction Code Official Robin Greenwald told the council at its Sept. 4 meeting the state requires building departments “to be self-funded,” but the township’s department is “no longer in that position,” so fees will need to be increased.
That should not come as a surprise, since the fees are the same as they were in 2007 – 11 years ago. The fee schedule is only supposed to be adjusted every two years, she said.
The state law specifies the fees charged should cover the salary of all Building Department employees, their benefits, reimbursed mileage, publications ordered by the department, conferences attended, technology purchased, expenses incurred by its outside professionals, as well as indirect costs, including the department’s portion of utilities, “rent” for its office space, its portion of the debt service on capital expenditures, and more.
Greenwald said the “hotel was an eye-opener.” It took a lot of time for inspections at the Embassy Suites, especially the sprinkler and alarm systems, “which took a long time to test” and multiple visits. What people may not realize is that whether the inspection is at a private home or a commercial building, “If you fail, we can’t charge you more” for a re-inspection, she said.
In addition, the larger projects, such as the hotel and the townhouse projects for Hamilton Avenue, and apartments at Locust Avenue, the former King’s site and others, may take a number of years to wrap up, and require inspections throughout.
Greenwald said the fees collected in the past year have not covered the “indirect costs,” associated with the building department and with these new projects coming online, this should be taken care of.
Councilwoman Susan Poage asked if there is a fine, if the fees collected don’t cover the cost.
Greenwald said, “No.” However, the taxpayers then pick up the difference in their property taxes, which “many don’t want to do.” The fees only affect the people and commercial developments in town which require a building permit.
Greenwald said she has been going over the fee schedule line-by-line and will present the new fee schedule at the next meeting of the council.
The council will next meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Town Hall, 29 Park Ave. Members of the public are encouraged to attend