2017-08-10 / Around Town

Special Meeting Fee

By Bob Rulli

The Newport City Council was asked on Wednesday, Aug. 2, to consider an amendment to the City Ordinances that will add a $500 fee for any matter requiring a special meeting.

As Newport This Week reported previously, special meetings are becoming increasing necessary. In July, the Zoning Board of Review held two special meetings in addition to their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Upcoming, special meetings are scheduled for the appeal of a building permit issued for property on Ledge Road and the proposed hotel mixed-use development at the former Newport Yachting Center in August and September, respectively.

In a “Request for City Council Action” in support of the additional charge, city staff William Hanley, II and Guy Weston wrote in a memorandum, “Special meetings which are deemed necessary for intricate or controversial projects require additional fees to cover the costs of stenographers, city maintenance personnel, city staff and utilities, etc.”

The proposed ordinance would add $500 to the standard application fees for the Historic District Commission and the Zoning Board of Review. The proposed ordinance also calls for the city to charge applicants $2.30 per page for letters to abutters, a service that was previously included in the application fee.

The fee change was met with some opposition. Attorney Turner Scott, who has represented numerous clients before both boards, said, “I am of two minds. I would recommend to a client to pay the $500 if the case would be heard sooner and you get a full board.”

Members of both boards serve as volunteers and are not compensated for their time. Scheduling conflicts often occur. When all board members are unable to attend a meeting, an alternate fills in. This becomes an issue when a matter is continued, because only the members who originally heard the matter can participate in the continued hearing.

“The city imposes the regulations on your property, has a required procedure to govern the process for change and dictates the terms of any approval. Why would governmental action not be paid by the city?” Scott asked.

“Take the case of the Ledge Road matter,” he added. “You would think the taxes paid on a vacant lot for no services would cover any costs for hearings.”

The council approved the ordinance change.

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