By ASHLEY HELMS
As it stands now, the Emelin Theater and LMC-TV will still have to foot the bill for mandatory building permit fees if they want to upgrade their facilities.
A proposal that would have exempted LMC-TV and the Emelin Theater from fees paid to the Village of Mamaroneck Building Department for construction permits was defeated by a 3-2 party line vote on Nov. 25.
Mayor Norman Rosenblum and Trustee Louis Santoro, both Republicans, were supportive of the waiver. They said the theater and tri-municipal television station are, essentially, village entities because they operate in village-owned buildings. Waiving permit fees would encourage the non-profit organizations to invest in the appeal of their locations and invest in the vitality of the village’s downtown business district at the same time.
“I feel this is apropos in working with these non-profits,” Rosenblum said.
The Emelin Theater shares building space with the Mama-roneck Public Library and LMC-TV has a studio in Mamaroneck High School as well as 145 Library Ln., but its administrative office is located in Mamaroneck Town Hall.
Only LMC-TV and Emelin Theater facilities located within the Village of Mamaroneck would have been eligible under the waiver, if it had passed.
Democratic trustees Ilissa Miller, Andres Bermudez Hall-strom and Leon Potok opposed the proposal. They said the possibility of waiving permit fees should be considered on a case-by-case basis during the fall municipal budget process in an open and transparent manner. The majority trustees felt the proposed waiver, if passed, wouldn’t promote the best financial practices.
The Democratic trustees declared their support for the Emelin Theater and LMC-TV, which broadcasts and records the village’s municipal meetings and events, despite voting against the proposal. They said their decision was based on what they felt are the best financial management practices.
“We should do it through the budget process, rather than indirectly by waiving fees without knowing the financial impact,” Potok said. “For purposes of transparency—in terms of what entities we are subsidizing and what we are subsidizing—it should be done openly.”
In defense of the proposal, Santoro said that fees would continue to be recorded and kept track of, and neither organization would be receiving any extra funding.
For this reason, despite what the other three trustees said, waiving permit fees could be done anytime and not just during the budget process, according to Santoro.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the budget. You’re not giving [Emelin and LMC-TV] anything, you’re just waiving the fees for them,” he said.
Erik Lewis, executive director of LMC-TV, said he was aware the proposal wasn’t voted down in principal, but rather due to a concern that it would give the organizations a free pass for any building permits.
“It depends on the project; if it benefits the community or not. I understood their thinking,” he said.
LMC-TV has never applied for a building permit and the Emelin Theater applies for one every three to five years, Village Manager Richard Slingerland said. A projection of between $3,000 and $5,000 in permit fees would have been waived by the proposal, according to Slingerland.
Village building permit fees are connected to the total dollar amount of construction that needs to be done to a structure, the village manager said.
The Emelin Theater saw what some regard as a much-needed makeover this summer after it underwent a renovation of its lobby. Upgrades included adding wheelchair accessibility, a new box office window for ticket purchasing and a more modern concession stand with more options for patrons. The construction required at least one permit from the Building Department, according to Lisa Reilly, executive director of the Emelin Theater. She said she believed the theater required more than one building permit when they wanted to perform construction on the building.
Reilly said she knew the proposal to waive permit fees was being considered by the Board of Trustees, but it wasn’t something theater management asked them to do.
“It wasn’t something we expected; we’re grateful the village has been so supportive,” Reilly said.
Attempting to frame the proposal in another way, the mayor linked waiving permit fees for the two non-profits to the village’s policy for homeowners affected by weather-related catastrophes.
After a flood, village building permit fees may be waived in order to aid those who have suffered serve damage to their homes, Rosenblum said. According to the mayor, doing the same for the two non-profits is a similar idea.
But waiving fees for damaged homes is intended to encourage legal building work so residents who are in a bad place financially won’t hire just any contractor, who may conduct illegal repairs in a crisis, Bermudez Hallstrom said.
As the board voted on the proposal, ultimately defeating it, Trustee Potok made a few final comments pertaining to the poor bookkeeping that would have been conducted if the proposal had passed.
Potok said it’s not reasonable to think the organizations won’t invest in their buildings if the imposed fees remain. The concern centers on making sure that if any fees were waived, that it’s done in a transparent manner instead of automatically waiving all building permit fees for any occasion related to the two organizations.
“It would be swept under the rug because we don’t see it; it’s automatic,” he said. “We wouldn’t have proper track kept on how much is spent on these non-profits.”