Next Tuesday night, the Southampton Town Board will hold a public hearing on Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst's proposal to eliminate permit requirements for residential storage sheds.
If adopted, the amendment would save residents the cost of permit filing, as well as application components, which in total often exceed the cost of the shed itself. Plus, those sheds initially installed without permits would be legal under the amended legislation.
"It's critical that we continually revisit our town code and re-evaluate how it is working," Throne-Holst said. "The shed permit is an example of a requirement that is simply too onerous. Storage sheds are small and basic structures without plumbing or external illumination. Yet we are finding that the high cost of the permit process has been causing people to sidestep the requirement. As a result, property owners with illegal sheds are hesitant to invite an inspector onsite for other inspections like rental permits, or electrical work, etc.- which are far more important to protecting life and safety."
Neighboring towns, such as Brookhaven and Riverhead, don't require permits for residential storage sheds and New York State building code does not require a permit for structures fewer than 144 square feet in area.
According to the town code, a residential storage shed is located on lot sizes of two acres or less and is defined as "a structure used to store household equipment (including garden equipment, lawn furniture, and bicycles) and having a maximum gross floor area of 120 square feet with a height not greater than 12 feet. A residential storage shed shall have no external illumination."
For Southampton, removal of the permit requirement would exempt one structure per property that meets the town's definition of a residential storage shed. That is, as long as it's placed a minimum of 10 feet from adjacent properties and avoids any other parcel specific wetlands or conservation restrictions.
Currently, the permit fee for a storage shed is $67.50, with the Building Department typically receiving about 100 permit applications for sheds each year.
"Building codes are simply meant to ensure structures are safe and to protect community character," Throne-Holst said in a press release last week. "If we can provide relief from a permit requirement without jeopardizing any of these goals, I think it's important that we do so."
A key component of the shed permit application is a survey identifying the proposed location of the shed on the property. The survey alone can cost as much at $1200. Also, property owners who build sheds without permits and later attempt to legalize them are billed a penalty to double the permit fee, equaling to $135. Under the newly proposed legislation, these fees would no longer apply.