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Building Back After Sandy? Permit Fees To Be Waived

Branford can’t control the weather or totally protect your home from the wrath of Mother Nature but they can make it easier to fix it when disaster strikes.

The Board of Selectman approved the agenda item to waive the building permit fee for all residents and businesses affected by Sandy at last night’s meeting. Residents now have six months to apply for permits, free of charge, said Building Official Anthony Cinicola. “The thought behind that is to inspire people and hopefully they will take out permits.”

So far, officials have been to more than 200 places to assess Sandy damage, said Cinicola, and the fear is that people will just “put things back” without taking out permits.

“I hope people take this opportunity involve the building department to properly remediate their hazards,” he said.

Following Sandy, Cinicola said officials are seeing repeat damage from Irene, indicating that residents did not correct potential hazards after last year’s storm. “I was counting on people to come in and pull their permits,” after Irene, he said. “We really didn’t get all the damage from Irene permitted through the process."

By waiving fees and encouraging the town building department to be part of the re-building process, Cinicola commented: “Hopefully in the future or the next storm, their loss potential is dramatically decreased.”

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This time around, Cinicola said they saw many of the same loses as Irene, including up to $12,000-loses for home mechicals, which were put back in basements after the building department suggested otherwise.

“People are under the understanding that this is a once in a 10-year event,” he said of the storms. “There’s no secret that our temperature is rising…” The storms, he added – “you can’t predict them.”

Though many residents saw devastating damage to their homes, Cinicola said all new builds along the local shoreline were damage-free following Irene and Sandy. “Working with the building department, you can live along the shoreline and build along the shoreline as long as it’s property done.”

A new home at the end of Linden Point, which is surrounded on three sides by water, said Cinicola, sustained no damage during Sandy.

Also, he added, a Pine Orchard resident was having a slight dispute with the Building Department about the placement of her generator, said Cinicola. The town wanted her to elevate it higher than the last platform she used for the generator. When Cinicola came by after the storm to assess the area, he said the old platform was several feet under water but her generator was saved in the new placement. “She was practically hugging us,” he said.

So, what fees are they talking about? Permits start at $18 for work up to $1,000 and $12 for every additional $1,000 (see full fee amounts below). A $20,000 project could cost a renovator at least $250 in fees. In 2010-11, permit fees brought in about $400,000 of revenue for the town, said Cinicola. Permit fees are the third largest source of income for Branford, he added. Fees have hovered around $400,000 in recent years but have gotten as high as about $750,000 in the early to mid 2000s.

The stipulations are that the request for waiver must be made in writing, the repairs must be a direct result of Sandy and all requests must be approved by the Building Office by no later than April 1, 2013. The request does not include scanning fees or state fees, which are minimal.

Helpful Information About Building

FEMA Assistance 

To register by phone, residents can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  The TTY line for people with speech or hearing disabilities is 1-800-462-7585.  The line is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days per week.
 
To register online, applications may be completed at www.disasterassistance.gov.
 
If residents have disaster assistance questions, they may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362.

Residents and businesses must file an insurance claim and register with FEMA

Base Flood Elevation (Raising Your Home)

Cinicola discusses the rule of having to raise your home if you live in a flood plain and your renovations are more than half the value of your assessed building (property not included). 

"Current State building code and by town ordinance limit the construction cost of renovations to structures located within a flood zone as defined by FEMA mapping to 50% of the appraised value of the structure only (not including the land). Once a renovation project exceeds 50%, the project becomes a “substantial improvement” therefore the structure must be brought into full compliance with the SBC and FEMA regulations including raising the structure. Your home can also be classified as a “Substantial Damage” as the result of damaged sustained from the storm and therefore also be brought into full compliance with the SBC and FEMA regulations including raising your home. Although tropical storms and hurricanes are not a regular event to our area we all have to do our best to properly mitigate our current situations to possibly avoid potential damage to our homes in the future, this sometimes includes a change in elevation."

Building Permit Information from Building Department Website

Permits Required:

Permits are required for any owner who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to move a lot line that will affect any existing building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by the code.

Permit applications:  Applications for all necessary permits are accepted from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday at the land use service counter located on second floor of Town Hall. 

Who may apply:

Applications shall be made by the property owner or by any authorized agent per public act 91-95. If the authorized agent is a CT licensed contractor than the provisions of section 20-338b of the CGS shall be followed. Contractors must submit proof of valid CT licensure and proper insurance certificate.

Authorization Form

Permit Forms:

The Building Official advises when a property owner has hired a contractor to perform any regulated construction work the contractor obtain the permits for the project themselves.  Some, but not all, instructions and forms are downloadable; please see below for details regarding permit requirements.   Please note that some forms must be notarized before being submitted to the Building Official.    

Application for Building Permit

Application to Install Electrical.

Application to Install Plumbing.

Application to Install Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.

Building Permit Requirements for Worker's Compensation (Directions 7A-7B-7C) (forms below)

State of Connecticut Worker's Compensation Commission forms 7A7B7C

Site inspections: 

As a project is started and progresses the permit applicant is responsible to notify the Building Department when ready for the required inspections.  Inspections are scheduled on a regular basis, a location and valid permit number is required when calling to request an inspection. Most inspection requests are scheduled within a 24 to 48-hour lead time but can be increased due to the number of inspection requests received. You must speak with someone to properly schedule your inspection no requests will be accepted by voicemail.

CO inspections are conducted after the structure is completed.  Please see the attached document, Building Inspection Process, for details. 

Fees: 

A fee of $18.00 shall cover work costing up to $1,000.00 with a fee of $12.00 for each additional $1,000.00 or fraction thereof. Additionally a State mandated education fee of $.26 per $1000.00 value of construction is applicable. A fee of $2.20 per sheet will be accessed for drawings received for sizes of 11”x17” to a maximum size of 30” x 42” and $.20 per page for all necessary documentation printed on 8.5” X 11” for scanning, indexing and filming such documents to meet the requirements of the States M-10 retention requirements.

Depending on the project, various other permit applications fees may be required.  Please contact the other relevant departments on this website (Engineering, Zoning, Inland Wetlands, Fire and Public Health) for those charges.

Do you have to build back from Sandy? Do the fee reductions give you more incentive to work with the town?

Terry Twigg November 09, 2012 at 02:10 PM
However sad and devastating the hurricane damage, I do not agree with this waiver, for two reasons: 1. Shoreline property owners, as a group, are among the wealthiest in the town. Those of us who can't afford waterfront already subsidize them directly through federal flood insurance that is priced far below its true cost, and indirectly through FEMA. Yes, they pay higher property taxes, but then deduct that from their income tax, and so we subsidize it again. Second, I don't think it will work. I suspect that the reason people avoid the building department is not the few hundred dollars in permitting fees, but the many thousands of dollars needed to comply with building codes for flood-prone areas. I am heartily sick of the media praising people for having the "courage" and "resilience" and "determination" to rebuild. Call it by its right name: idiocy. They wouldn't do it if they had to bear the risk on their own shoulders. The dollars we will spend rebuilding houses that will flood again in just a few years would fund the national health care and educational reforms we need, with money to spare. When are we going to acknowledge that it is just bad, bad, bad public policy to encourge waterfront development?
Gina Maloney November 10, 2012 at 07:24 AM
It would appear the better option would be the Board of Selectmen to shift the property tax off of buildings and onto the land such as that which 17 jurisdictions in PA have done. See www.urbantoolsconsult.org for in-depth information.
Joshua Vincent November 14, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Waiving permit fees strikes me as more of a gesture than a substantial tool. Assuming that rebuilding in these areas is going to be even possible as the state and federal government makes decisions about insurance and other subsidies such as shore replenishment, it would seem very few lenders would take a crack helping to rebuild these houses as before. It may be that we go back to the days of simple country cottages; that would be such a bad thing. I agree with the above comment that a more robust method of encouraging rebuilding where appropriate is to simply abate buildings permanently from the property tax and depend more upon land values. I do know that Connecticut's local and state officials, as well as planners and urban redevelopment folks are interested in the idea of taxing land values.

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