Friday, December 17, 2010
ConsCom may increase fees
VISTA VANTAGE. Trails Committee member Steve Tobin stands by the site of a future viewing platform being built on the Benfi eld Land in cooperation with the Carlisle Conservation Foundation. (Photo by Steve Hinton)
At its December 2 meeting the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) considered a revised fee structure for work proposed in or near wetlands and water bodies under the Carlisle Wetlands Bylaw (see table, page 7).
Vice Chair Peter Burn reminded the commission that he met with the Finance Committee a year ago and explained that the ConsCom was stressed for sufficient funds to pay its staff. The FinCom advised the ConsCom to analyze its actual labor and other costs for reviewing wetlands filings and to consider increasing fees.
Burn explained that the FY12 draft budget being developed under the FinCom’s guidelines would not cover the ConsCom’s expenses and the revolving accounts for filing fees are expected to run out of funds by the middle of the next fiscal year.
Under the Wetlands Protection Act Regulations, steps such as requesting a permit (Notice of Intent), seeking signoff on a completed project (Request for a Certificate of Compliance) and requesting an extension all have separate fees. In addition, the fees associated with a Notice of Intent vary with the size and complexity of the project. Fees under the local bylaw are similarly structured.
Commissioner Tom Brownrigg has been working with Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard to determine what percentage of the ConsCom’s expenses are currently covered by the state and local filing fees.
The state and town each receive approximately half of the state fee. Brownrigg’s analysis shows that the percentage of the ConsCom’s costs covered by a combination of the state and local fees currently ranges from 11% for a Determination of Applicability to 76% for extension of a permit. (A Determination of Applicability is filed when the owner is uncertain whether the proposed work is subject to review by ConsCom.) If the proposed revisions are adopted, the fees will pay for roughly a third of the costs for processing a Determination of Applicability and all the costs for extension requests.
Most of the filings the ConsCom receives are for work on existing single family homes and Requests for Determination. Several commissioners expressed a desire to keep the fees for these categories modest – they do not want to increase them to a level where people would be discouraged from filing.
Willard said that she did not believe fees should cover all the board’s permitting costs because there is a public benefit to wetlands protection and the town should cover some of the expense. The last time fees were changed was in 2006.
Brownrigg had researched the fee structures of communities similar to Carlisle as well as surrounding towns. Willard later noted that there was a large variation in fees charged by the other towns.
Emphasizing that its proposed fee schedule is still preliminary, the ConsCom scheduled a public hearing for January 13 at 8 p.m.
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