Building permit fees go up

The cost of building permits in Ridgefield has gone up a bit, after the Board of Selectmen approved a slight fee increase.

The fee is now $50 for the first $1,000 of a project, and another $10 for every $1,000 in added value after that.

Leaving the initial $50 untouched, the selectmen voted March 8 to approve increasing the rate for each additional $1,000 in project value by $2, from $8 to $10. This raised the cost of a permit on a $100,000 project from $842 to $1,040.

Deputy Building Official Jason Celestino presented the proposal for the fee increase, saying Ridgefield’s fees had been the same since 2006. He showed a chart with building permit fees from 20 neighboring towns. How the fees were constructed varied from town to town, but of the 20, only Bethel’s $863 charge appeared close to Ridgefield’s $842 for a $100,000 project. All the other towns had $1,000 fees or more, and the high appeared to be Greenwich, charging $1,346 for a $100,000 residential project and $1,546 if the project involves a commercial structure.

Celestino estimated that the increase would add probably about another $70,000 to the department’s annual fee income — which was projected to be $525,000 this year following a 2016-17 total of $469,504.

Most of the selectmen had no problem with increasing the per-$1,000 fee.

“I have no problem with us going up $2,” said Selectwoman Barbara Manners.

“I think we should — it’s been since ’06,” said Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark.

Selectman Bob Hebert agonized a bit.

“Yeah, it pains me,” Hebert said. “We’re calling it fees, but in reality it’s a tax.”

Selectman Steve Zemo noted that the increase would hit only a self-selecting group of taxpayers — people doing additions and renovations.

“It’s only a tax on those who can afford a new kitchen,” Zemo said. “If you can’t afford a new kitchen, you don’t have the tax.”