Friday, March 4, 2011

County considers lower building-permit fees

Proposed decrease would offset energy costs

Express Staff Writer

In what he said was an effort to reduce the impact of a new energy code on builders, Commissioner Larry Schoen proposed lowering the county's building permit fees this week.

"We passed a restrictive code last week," Schoen said. "We want the community to know we want to encourage this type of development."

Building permit fees currently range from $24.75 to more than $5,900, depending on the valuation of the addition or structure. Schoen suggested a reduction in building permit fees anywhere from 25 to 40 percent, capping at a yet-to-be-determined dollar amount.

"The goal is to have a reasonable reduction," he said.

The county passed a new energy code last week over the objections of some who felt the cost of the required energy efficiencies would stifle the recovery of the valley's construction industry.

The new code states that the county's adjustments could increase up-front construction costs by about 2 percent. Some builders' estimates for increasing costs have been higher, up to 30 percent.

Schoen said Monday that he had "lingering concerns" about the changes, which he voted in favor of.

"Every dollar counts on any size project," he said.

No specific number for reduction has been reached, but Schoen has asked the Land Use and Building Services Department to conduct an analysis of a reduction's potential fiscal impact. Schoen said the building services staff is already looking at the numbers.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said the issue should be taken up at next week's discussion of the board's priorities, but added that she supported the proposal.

However, Commissioner Tom Bowman said an analysis of fiscal impact could put undue strain on already-busy staff.

"If you keep asking them to do more, what's not being done?" he asked.

Schoen said he wanted to discuss and resolve the reduction issue as soon as possible, in part as a show of support for the community.

"This is something I'd like to move forward quickly," he said. "It's important the community knows our priorities align with theirs."

Katherine Wutz:

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