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Amityville automotive fee change may mean refunds, clerk says

The mayor’s decision to reset charges to the previous lower level sparks a board of trustees debate over whether the increases were made legally two years ago.

Security Chrysler Jeep Ram, seen here on Monday,

Security Chrysler Jeep Ram, seen here on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Amityville board of trustees is locked in a battle over automotive license fees and whether they were legally changed.

The issue came to a head last week at a board meeting where nearly a dozen licenses for vehicle sales, repairs and auto body work were up for renewal. Mayor Dennis Siry announced the renewals would be reset to $175 each, the amount that had long been used in the village for all automotive uses.

A new fee schedule had been created in a resolution packaged with the 2015-2016 budget, Trustee Nick LaLota said in objecting to the change. That fee schedule had created separate fees for new and used car sales that charged companies based on the number of cars they had on site, ranging from $125 for 25 vehicles to $1,000 for 200 vehicles, instead of the flat $175 fee.

Bruce Kennedy, the village’s attorney, said that this new fee schedule was improperly done because the village code was not changed to address that there would be different fees based on different automotive services.

LaLota disagreed, citing the part of village code that states for each license “there shall be a fee . . . established from time to time by resolution of the Board of Trustees.”

Siry and LaLota said they could not locate the resolution. Posted minutes for the year’s eight meetings before the 2015-2016 budget vote in April 2015 show no mention of auto license fees.

Thirty auto businesses operate in Amityville. By going back to the previous fee, the village could end up refunding $2,500 to “more than five dealerships,” Village Clerk/Treasurer Catherine Murdock said without being more specific.

LaLota said that because storage trailer fees were also changed at the time of the license fees, additional refunds should be issued for those fees. “If you’re going to cut checks, cut them for both,” he said.

Kennedy said the issue about the licenses is not the fee change, but establishing different fees for different uses, something has to be done by law.

Automotive businesses contacted by Newsday either didn’t respond to requests for comment or said they weren’t affected by the fee issue, which applies to operations with more than 25 vehicles.

Several of the licenses up for renewal belong to Security Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram — one of the largest businesses in Amityville — which is in a legal dispute with the village over the company’s request to use property on Merrick Road for parking. The village maintains the action would violate an addition to village code from 2006 banning further expansion of automotive uses on the roadway.

Kennedy has long represented Security in its case against the village. Residents at the meeting said Kennedy should recuse himself from commenting on any matters related to the company.

“He’s giving an opinion on the code, not on the business,” trustee Thomas Whalen said.

The board approved all of the license renewals 3-2, with LaLota and Jessica Bernius casting the dissenting votes.

Amityville Village code on automotive licenses:

“No person shall conduct or continue to conduct the business of a garage, including sales, purchases and service of vehicles, new and/or used, unless an annual license shall first have been secured therefor from the Board of Trustees of the Village in the manner provided in this article.

“The license granted under this article shall be valid for one year from September 1 and shall expire on the next succeeding August 31.”

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