Board: Expedited Permits Come With A Cost

By J. Tantongco & A. Wroblewski

The Huntington Town Board has implemented an expedited plan review and building permit issuance process that’s intended to speed up wait times for both residents and business owners, for a cost.

Pending approval from the town, residents have the option to pay an additional $750 over the basic permit fee for up to two hours of expedited plan review. Business owners can pay $2,000 for up to four hours of plan review. After that, each additional hour costs $250.

Currently, according to town code, building permits cost $100 for residential use and $500 for non-residential uses, and also include an additional fee based on estimated construction costs.

Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, co-sponsor with Supervisor Frank Petrone of the resolution approving the expedited process, said in a phone call Wednesday that the process is intended to be one of several steps toward improving wait times.

“This is not the only way we’ll be able to attack this,” she said, adding that another potential improvement would be dedicating personnel to specifically process small-scale residential applications, like swimming pool permits.

Those who pay for the expedited process will not be pushed ahead of those who did not, Edwards said. Instead, she added, work on expedited permits will only be done after hours.

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the town processed 3,500 building permits last year. He estimated 4,000 permits will be processed in 2017. Wait times vary by the season, but the process typically takes four to eight weeks.

The expedited process grew from a pilot program the town implemented earlier this year, Edwards said. Around 50-70 people opted into the program during the test run and saw wait times improve significantly, she said.

“What would have taken four to five weeks took four to five days to review,” Edwards said.

The resolution implementing the expedited process was approved, 4-1, during the town board’s July 11 meeting. There was a public hearing June 13 on the legislation.

Councilman Eugene Cook voted against the legislation.

Cook said in phone call Wednesday that “people who cannot afford the fee should not be penalized.” He added that the permit approval process needs to be streamlined, but claimed there are other ways to do so, including by improving computer systems to faster process applications.