Zoning fees waived for Caverns project


By Patsy Nicosia

Calling Howe Caverns’ expansion plans “just the most wonderful thing to happen to this town,” Cobleskill Supervisor Tom Murray successfully lobbied for $1,675 in zoning breaks Monday for Phase 1 of the project.
With the fee waiver, Howe Caverns plans to pick up its building permit for five buildings, in a day or two, Mr. Murray said.
To deny the waiver would have held up the entire project, he said.
Project developers will still have to pay $1,243 in building inspection fees.
The difference between the two confused councilmen and led Sherwood Veith to vow he’ll also vote in favor of zoning fee waivers for all other future applications.
Reminding councilmen that Howe Caverns has already spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars for a site plan” for the project, Mr. Murray said it would be ridiculous not to grant the waiver.
“The man [Emil Galasso] wants to spend $20 million in your town and he can’t justify that zoning fee,” Mr. Murrray said.
“This is a real nice thank-you not to meet that little request.”
At issue wasn’t so much the waiver, but the question of whether the fee itself was “arcane” and needed to be looked it.
Codes Enforcement Officer Pete Irwin explained that the building inspection fee—which the project will be paying—covers his time making sure things like fire code is met.
The zoning fee, he said, “is for the right to put a building in the Town of Cobleskill. Most other communities fold the two fees in together…”
Councilman Ryan McAllister said that though he appreciates what Howe Caverns is doing, he’s opposed to waivers “because they set us up for being accused of favoritism.”
“The Planning Board is working hard to move this forward,” he added.
In December, the town denied a request from the non-profit Animal Shelter of the Schoharie Valley that $2,700 in fees for its building project be waived, instead offering a “compromise” fee of $1.038.
Councilmen agreed the fee structure needs to be looked at, even as they voted to grant Mr. Galasso’s request.
Mr. McAllister cast the lone no vote.
“If the fee is arcane, we need to get rid of it,” he said, “but we need to stay consistent with waivers till the law is changed. I’ll vote no.”