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Pamelia approves law requiring land surveys for building permits

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Professional land surveys will be required by the town of Pamelia before some developers can acquire a building permit, thanks to a local law approved by the board Monday.

The law will apply only to developers whose proposed buildings are less than 100 feet away from property boundaries. If the setback is more than 100 feet, surveys will not be required unless they are mandated by the zoning enforcement officer under special circumstances.

The law states that site plan reviews by the Zoning Board of Appeals must be completed with a “licensed surveyor’s or engineer’s stamped rendering and depiction of the building plans for purposes which include verifying setback requirements.” Under the town’s ordinance, buildings must be at least 12 feet away from property lines.

Officials say the law was crafted to prevent developers from building houses on small plots of land too close to the road. Code enforcement officer Water H. VanTassel said the zoning board has issued several variances for projects that have violated the ordinance in recent years.

“The zoning board doesn’t want any more cases of buildings too close to property lines,” he said. “Does it cost more to make sure you’ve measured right at the start of a project or to move the foundation after you’re done building? This needs to be done right every time.”

Numerous residents have called the town to voice their opposition the law, which they see as an additional project cost that could be avoided. Mr. VanTassel said that land surveys are usually in the price range of $300 to $500. Most large developers already conduct professional land surveys, so the law mainly will affect people doing small projects.

“Some people have complained that it’s an extra cost they didn’t have to bear, and I understand where they’re coming from,” he said. “But I’ve had calls from licensed surveyors who’ve commended me for moving forward with this law. It needs to be done.”

Paul D. Trimper, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, said that he was concerned about the added cost of the land surveys. But he still supported the board’s decision to approve the law.

“I’m concerned that this could potentially cost more for developers than it saves us,” he said. “But we’ve had a major problem with people coming for variances after houses are built, so maybe a little intervention up front will stop it.”

There were three cases in the past year in which people built houses on plots of land off Route 342 — owned by Pamelia Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway, an independent housing developer — that violated the town’s zoning ordinance. Variances also have been issued for development property off Knowsville Road.

During Monday’s meeting, Mr. Longway described an incident on his property last year in which he hired a developer to build a house.

“The stakes were measured properly, but he later moved them closer to the property line to violate the ordinance,” he said. “There are always people who want to push the envelope.”

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