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Oyster Bay proposes highway dept., not board, set parking fees

The Massapequa train station parking lot and others

The Massapequa train station parking lot and others in the Town of Oyster Bay require a annual parking permit. Jan. 16, 2018. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The Oyster Bay Town Board may delegate its authority to set parking permit fees to an unelected commissioner after it tabled a proposal to increase them by as much as 900 percent, board members said.

The latest proposal, which has not been made public, could come before the town board for a hearing next week.

Councilman Anthony Macagnone said Wednesday the board should continue to set the fees because “we’re elected to make these tough decisions.”

“Taking the authority away from the board is just wrong,” Macagnone said Wednesday in an interview.

Macagnone said he received a memo from the Town Attorney’s office on Jan. 12 about the proposed local law to put the highway department commissioner in charge of setting parking permit fees.

“If the commissioner sets the fee without the recommendation of the town board, anything can happen,” Macagnone said.

The proposed change followed a plan to hike most commuter parking permit fees by 900 percent that the town board tabled without discussion at its Jan. 9 meeting.

Oyster Bay spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email Wednesday that Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino “not immediately available” to talk about parking fees. On Tuesday Nevin said Saladino had backed off the proposal to increase fees that was on the Jan. 9 agenda. Nevin wrote Tuesday “Supervisor Saladino opposes any fee increase” and that the resolution “will not advance.”

Macagnone said he was open to increasing the parking permit fees, which haven’t changed since 2000, but that any increase should be done gradually.

Delegating the authority to a commissioner would require a public referendum under state law, said Paul Sabatino, a Huntington Station attorney and former chief deputy Suffolk County executive.

“If you curtail the power of an elected official via a local law you have to put it to a mandatory referendum and this would be a clear case where the underlying authority to establish fees is vested in the town board,” Sabatino said.

The normal process for taking applications for parking permits has been put on hold because of the uncertainty over the fee increase, according to the town clerk’s office, which issues parking permits. That could delay issuing new permits in March, when all existing permits will expire.

The tabled fee hike proposal would have increased the annual cost of a permit to park at the town’s rail station parking lots to $100 from $10 for residents of unincorporated areas and to $175 from $80 for residents of incorporated villages within the town. The fee for seniors was also to increase to $35 from $10.

Oyster Bay issues permits for its parking lots at the Bethpage, Glen Head, Hicksville, Locust Valley, Massapequa and Syosset train stations, where 6,891 spots require permits.

The fee hike would have added approximately $3.6 million in revenue to the $700,000 assumed in the 2018 budget, based on types of the 41,202 permits issued and valid through March 31.

In a Jan. 5 memorandum, John Bishop, deputy commissioner of the highway department, said the fee hike was needed because of “the increased cost of maintaining and improving our town’s parking facilities.”

Town budgets show that annual debt service related to public parking has increased to $5.2 million in the 2018 budget from $3.6 million budgeted five years ago.

In December 2016 the town board backed off a proposal to create $100 annual “premium parking” spots at four of the lots after a public opposition.

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