Mayor George Spoll, a retired home builder, can’t believe the town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department has been, in essence, doing work for free in some cases.
At its Thursday, Feb. 17 regular workshop, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson explained that a new fee schedule is needed, in part, because her department will sometimes perform work for an applicant who later chooses not to move forward with a permit.
“By having an application fee that’s non-refundable, it ensures we won’t lose money if someone changes their mind,” Simpson said. “I am working to develop a reasonable application fee.”
The six commissioners in attendance agreed with the decision (Vice Mayor Jim Brown was not present at the meeting).
“You want to make the fee big enough so the department doesn’t waste time and money,” said Commissioner Robert Siekmann.
Spoll, however, couldn’t get past the fact that the town has not had an application fee before.
“I spent my life in this business and was accustomed to getting permits,” Spoll said. “If we are doing plans for no cost or very little cost, it’s amazing to me. This is not a game for amateurs. Right now we collect zero upfront and that’s absurd.”
Spoll said the application fee has to be enough to cover town staff’s work.
“The building department should not be used as a free design service,” Spoll said.
Simpson agreed and told the commission she will bring back to the commission a recommended permit fee that will be charged moving forward.
The discussion stems from a building permit-fee study the town paid approximately $18,000 for more than two years ago.
The study has been revised several times over the last three years by Anaheim, Calif.,-based Willdan Financial Services.
The town, in an attempt to help make the Planning, Zoning and Building Department break even or create a profit, approved the study in May 2008 to make sure its building department is charging sufficient fees.
The study shows the building department could do a better job of recouping fees for renovation permits, which make up the bulk of the department.
Flat fees for simple jobs, such as the replacement of a water heater, would also increase to reflect what neighboring communities and counties charge.
For instance, the replacement of a water heater on Longboat Key would cost $70 for the permit, as suggested in the study. That fee is currently $50.
The commission, however, doesn’t want to raise fees too high, which they feel could deter contractors from pulling permits.
Spoll has suggested the town consider keeping base fees that can be raised in increments, depending on the square footage of a job.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]