[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Athens 2-24-2003 by L.L. No. 3-2003. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Town Board hereby finds and determines that in order to protect and safeguard the Town of Athens, its residents and their property, with respect to certain land developments within the Town, all buildings, highways, drainage facilities, sanitary sewer facilities, other utilities and parks within said developments should be designed and constructed in a competent and workmanlike manner and in conformity with all applicable governmental codes, rules and regulations and dedicated and conveyed to the Town in a legally sufficient manner. In order to assure the foregoing, it is essential for the Town to have Town staff and competent engineers and planners retained by the Town to review applications, plans and designs, make recommendations to the Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals and to recommend their acceptance by the Town. It is also essential to have competent attorneys retained by the Town, to negotiate and draft appropriate agreements with developers, to obtain, review and approve necessary securities, insurance and other legal documents, to review proposed deeds and easements to assure the Town that it is obtaining good and proper title and to generally represent the Town with respect to legal disputes and issues concerning these development projects. The cost of staff time and retaining competent engineers, planners and attorneys should ultimately be paid by those who seek to profit from such developments rather than from general Town funds paid by taxpayers of the Town.
This chapter is enacted under the authority of Subparagraphs (a)(12) and (d)(3) of Municipal Home Rule Law § 10(1)(ii) and Municipal Home Rule Law § 22. To the extent Town Law §§ 274-a, 276 and 277 do not authorize the Town Board, Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals to require the reimbursement to the Town of legal, planning, and engineering expenses incurred by the Town in connection with review and consideration of development applications, it is the expressed intent of the Town Board to supersede such statutes. To the extent that such statutes do not authorize the deferral or withholding of such approvals in the event such expenses are not paid to the Town, it is the expressed intent of the Town Board to change and supersede Town Law §§ 274-a, 276 and 277 to empower the Town to require such payment as a condition to such approvals.
A reviewing board may require an applicant to deposit an initial sum of money into an escrow account in advance of the review of an application for a special permit, site plan or subdivision approval, zoning amendment, variance or other appeal or application. Said sum shall be used to cover the reasonable and necessary costs to the Town in obtaining professional review of the application. Costs may include staff costs and consultant fees for planning, engineering, legal and other professional and technical services required for the proper and thorough review of an application. In establishing the sum to be deposited, the reviewing board shall consider the professional review fees of neighboring municipalities in reviewing similar applications. The reviewing board shall also consider the Town's most recent survey of professional review fees in neighboring municipalities.
The review fees provided for herein are in addition to application or administrative fees required pursuant to other sections of the Athens Town Code. Monies deposited by applicants pursuant to this chapter shall not be used to offset the Town's general expenses of professional services for the several boards of the Town or its general administrative expenses.
The reviews governed by this chapter shall include all environmental review pursuant to law, including review of the proposed action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"). Fees charged strictly as a result of a SEQRA review shall in no event exceed the maximum amounts that can be charged pursuant to the SEQRA regulations by the lead agency.
Upon receipt of monies requested for an escrow account, the Town Supervisor shall cause such monies to be placed in a separate non-interest-bearing account in the name of the Town and shall keep a separate record of all such monies deposited and the name of the applicant and project for which such sums were deposited.
Upon receipt and approval by the Town Board of itemized vouchers from consultants for services rendered on behalf of the Town regarding a particular application, the Town Supervisor shall cause such vouchers to be paid out of the monies so deposited, and shall debit the separate record of such account accordingly. The consultant shall make copies of such vouchers available to the applicant at the same time the vouchers are submitted to the Town.
The Town Board shall review and audit all such vouchers and shall approve payment of only such consultant charges as are reasonable and necessary in connection with the review and consideration of applications. A charge or part thereof is reasonable in amount if it bears a reasonable relationship to the average charge by consultants to the Town for services performed in connection with the review of a similar application. In auditing the vouchers, the Town Board may take into consideration the size, type and number of buildings to be constructed, the topography of the site at issue, environmental conditions at such site, the infrastructure proposed in the application and any special conditions the Town Board may deem relevant. A charge or part thereof is necessarily incurred if it was charged by the consultant for a service which was rendered in order to protect or promote the health, safety or other vital interests of the residents of the Town, and protect public or private property from damage.
In no event shall an applicant make direct payment to any Town consultant as compensation for services performed for the Town by the consultant in connection with his/her application.
If at any time during the processing of an application there shall be insufficient monies on hand to the credit of an applicant to pay the approved vouchers in full, or if it shall reasonably appear to the reviewing board that such monies will be insufficient to meet vouchers yet to be submitted, the reviewing board shall cause the applicant to deposit additional sums as the board deems necessary or advisable in order to meet such expenses or anticipated expenses.
In the event the applicant fails to deposit the requested professional review fees into an escrow account, any application review, approval, permit or certificate of occupancy may be withheld or suspended by the reviewing board, officer or employee of the Town until such monies are deposited.
Upon completion of the review of an application or upon the withdrawal of an application, and after all reasonable and necessary professional review fees already incurred by the Town have been paid and deducted from the escrow account, any balance remaining in the escrow account shall be refunded within 60 days after the applicant's request.