Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
New ordinance raises town building fees

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
August 10, 2007

VERNON - The Town Council has unanimously voted in favor of three ordinances that increase building fees and prevent improperly placed utility poles.

Town officials say the increases were needed to keep pace with what other towns charge, and better reflect costs generated by the Building Department.

Among those fees increased at Tuesday's council meeting is the cost for a certificate of occupancy or code compliance, which will double from $5 to $10.

Building permits will also increase, from $14 for every $1,000 of estimated construction cost to $30 for the first $1,000, and $15 for every additional $1,000 of estimated cost.

According to Vernon Building Official Stephen Dupre, the increases more closely reflect the actual costs of doing business, including administrative, travel, and inspections for zoning and building permits.

The Town Council had been considering raising the building fees since budget negotiations last spring revealed they were significantly lower in Vernon than in other area towns.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark first broached the subject in November 2006 in a letter to Mayor Ellen L. Marmer.

"It appears the larger communities are heading in the direction of increasing their fees," Clark wrote, citing East Hartford, Newington, and West Hartford - which charge $15 per thousand - Glastonbury at $17 per thousand, and Wethersfield and Windsor Locks charging $20 per thousand.

"This is something that is necessary. The amount we're charging is lower than other towns our size," Deputy Mayor Jason L. McCoy said.

In addition to the two ordinances affecting fees, the council Tuesday also adopted a third measure restricting utility companies from installing poles in the center of a sidewalk, addressing a problem that has cropped up lately with the reconstruction of Vernon Avenue and other areas.

"This should prevent it from happening in the future, except in extenuating circumstances," said Mark Etre, Republican council member who spearheaded efforts for the change.

The ordinance also requires utilities to place poles further away from the curb so as not to be a danger to motorists. The downtown Rockville section could be exempt as many sidewalks in that neighborhood abut buildings, Etre said.

The new policy is flexible, often leaving the location for pole placement up to the discretion of the town engineer, he added.

Utility companies will be charged $50 for a permit and license to remove, relocate, or install a pole when conducting authorized roadwork, such as replacing underground pipes.

A letter with a copy of the new policy will be sent to all utility companies.

Public hearings were held before the council voted, but no one spoke against or in favor, of any of the three ordinances.

©Journal Inquirer 2007