East Hampton officials want to drastically raise fines for code violations including beach driving and littering, but delayed action after a complaint that penalties and late fees would be too steep.
The town board decided last week not to vote on the plan after David Buda of Springs took issue with the time limits on paying the penalties.
"This is a late fee that is so onerous that you double the fine if they do not respond in 15 days," Buda said. "If you lose a ticket, it triples after 30 days. . . . It's $800 for driving with no permit on the beach. Is this the message we want to give to visitors from afar?"
That beach driving fine is one of the steepest proposed by the town; it starts with a $250 ticket. The $100 littering ticket would increase to $350 if unpaid after 90 days, and the $200 fine for discharging fireworks without a permit would go to $650 if not paid after 90 days.
Repeat offenders already face even stiffer fines. Anyone who violates the East Hampton Town shellfish code three times within 18 months faces a fine of up to $1,500 and up to 20 days in jail, as well as the loss of their shellfish permit.
Town Attorney John Jilnicki said that while the penalties proposed for not paying tickets on time might be steep, they are regularly waived in Town Justice Court if people show there was a good reason for them not to respond in a timely way, such as being in a hospital or being out of town.
Buda argued that just getting to town justice court on a weekday can be difficult for someone living in Manhattan, and relying on the Postal Service to pay a ticket can result in enough of a delayed payment to subject someone to an additional fine.
Jilnicki explained that the town board was considering the change to take the ambiguity out of some of its fines, which can range widely. The minimum cash fine for the third violation of the shellfish code starts at $300 and can be as much as $1,500 at the judge's discretion.
The town board could amend the fine structure and pass it without another public hearing, Jilnicki said.