Community Development Fee Policy




Establish County Policy for Development Related Fees




Tucker, Foley, Davis, Graham, Schlothauer






December 5, 2007


ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   










The purpose of this report is to review the findings of a Community Development Fee Study and to receive Board direction on the development of a County policy for cost recovery with these fee based programs.  Recognizing the Board’s interest in having development review and inspection fees recover all or part of the costs associated with those programs, the County contracted a study with The PFM Group (PFM) to evaluate Community Development’s fee based programs. (Attachment A)  PFM will present its report to the Board at this meeting. (Attachment B)   Following that presentation, staff will discuss PFM’s recommendations and provide a recommendation on phasing in fee increases over time.  Based on Board input and discussion, staff will follow up at a future meeting with a final policy and proposed ordinance amendments regarding cost recovery.  



Effectively Manage Growth and Development



While the PFM study provides a significant amount of detailed information with respect to program costs and revenues, it will be difficult to effectively utilize this information without establishing a policy for cost recovery through development fees.  PFM has provided six policy recommendations, which start on page 4 of their report.  Staff’s perspective on those recommendations is provided below.   


1. Improve data quality for fees.   Specifically, PFM indicates the complexity of the current fee structure makes it difficult to use, suggesting a need to create unique identifiers for each permit. Staff concurs with this recommendation and believes this can be accomplished as part of consideration of ordinance amendments to revise fees.    


2. Reduce the number of fee titles in the schedule.  PFM provided a consolidated fee schedule with their report (Table ES-4 starting on page 38).   Staff concurs with the need to reduce the number of fee titles and believes this can be accomplished as part of amending the fees in the ordinances.  


3. Develop a Board Approved Cost Recovery Policy.  PFM has recommended the County implement a policy for cost recovery that 1) identifies the County’s costs; 2) establishes the portion of costs to be recovered through associated fees; 3) establishes the frequency with which such fees would be reviewed; and 4) establishes the process for obtaining public input related to fees. In reviewing the minutes of past Board meetings, it appears there was considerable discussion on a fee policy in 1991, but no clear policy was established. (Attachments C & D)  Following the 1991 discussions, there has only been one comprehensive fee adjustment, but no further policy consideration. As a result, County fees have not maintained the relationship to costs anticipated in 1991.  Staff concurs with the PFM recommendation and believes this policy can assure fees are being implemented in a fair and consistent manner.   Within other parts of this discussion, staff is providing recommendations for the issues of identifying the County’s costs and the frequency of reviewing the fees. As part of a cost recovery policy with development fees, the Board will also need to consider the following two issues:



4.  Adjust fees based on budget growth each year.   PFM has recommended an annual adjustment based on a two step process of reviewing work changes and inflation.  While staff agrees the fees should be regularly adjusted, staff notes the fee changes require amending ordinances and reprinting of guidance and documents to reflect the new fees. Given the cost / benefit associated with the fee adjustments, staff recommends the policy have fees adjusted every other year, rather than every year, and the adjustment be based on a simple-to-implement inflation factor.  


5.      Actual time spent providing the services related to each fee should be captured.  PFM is recommending Community Development implement a time keeping system to accurately track work time associated with each fee.  If fees are to be set at or near full cost recovery, staff agrees this is important. It must be noted that development and implementation of this time keeping system will be a major undertaking.  If it is the Board’s desire to set fees at or near costs, staff recommends implementation of a fee specific time keeping system as part of Community Development’s work program next year.  Staff has already started investigating how this may be done and will need to further discuss with the Board the impact of this type of system on the work program.      


6.      A time period should be established for comprehensive review of development related fees.  PFM has recommended this review occur every four or five years with implementation of a time keeping system.  Assuming a time keeping system is implemented in FY 08-09, staff recommends the next comprehensive review should be planned for FY 11-12 and the interval for future comprehensive reviews should be established as part of that first review.     



A cost recovery policy allows the County to establish the expectation for development funding versus County funding of County administered permits.  This provides for fair and consistent treatment of permits and simplifies budget preparation.  It is noted that there are costs associated with implementing and operating a time keeping system, but those cost can be largely recovered as part of the fees.  




Staff recommends that the Board approve the attached ‘Implementation Plan for Development Fee Policy’ (Attachment E) as the general direction for moving forward in implementing fee increases.  In addition, staff recommends the Board provide direction regarding the points discussed above that can be used in the development of a policy for consideration at a future meeting. Both of these issues will be covered in greater detail through a presentation at Wednesday’s Board meeting.



Attachment A- Albemarle County Development Fee Study 2007

Attachment B – PFM Presentation Outline

Attachment C – June 12, 1991 Board Minutes on Development Ordinance’s Fee Schedules

Attachment D - August 14, 1991 Board Minutes on Development Ordinance’s Fee Schedules

Attachment E – Implementation Plan for Development Fee Policy

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