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Brookhaven bill would limit some tree-clearing fees

Help is on the way for Brookhaven homeowners who unknowingly move into a home that breaks the town’s law on maintaining yard vegetation.

Currently some Brookhaven subdivisions require homes to have 51 percent of their parcels covered by vegetation, according to planning board covenants in the communities.

To seek an exemption to the clearing limit rule, there is a sliding scale fee formula that can cost homeowners thousands of dollars, according to Councilwoman Connie Kepert.

She and Councilman Dan Panico co-sponsored a bill to reduce the clearing limit exemption fees to $500 for those who comply with the existing limits and $1,000 for those who are not in conformance.

“The current fee structure makes it nearly financially impossible for homeowners to apply for the relief,” Kepert said in a news release. “When a resident makes a legitimate case to the town to have their tree clearing limits relieved it should not cost them thousands of dollars.”

Panico added, in a statement, “When fees are levied that are in excess of the cost of providing the service, it is a disingenuous way of collecting revenue which I refer to as a backdoor tax.”

Spurred by a Farmingville couple who faced thousands of dollars in violations for tree clearing performed before they owned the property, Kepert also sponsored an amendment to waive fees if the homeowner can prove, with a certificate of occupancy, that the excessive yard clearing occurred before he or she moved in.

“If a homeowner comes to the Town because they need permits to improve the value of their home and because they take pride in where they live, the Town should not distress them with fees related to covenants that they were never informed of when building their home," she said.

The town board voted unanimously in favor of both amendments at last week’s board meeting.

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