Subdivision Ordinance Fees



Worksession to consider amending fees for County services associated with the Subdivision Ordinance



Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, Fritz






April 8, 2009


ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   









The purpose of this worksession is to review the Planning Commission’s recommendation for Subdivision Ordinance fees.   At the December 5, 2007 Board meeting, staff presented a Community Development Fee Study and a recommendation for a fee policy. (Attachment A)  Subsequent to that study, staff proposed changes to the fees in the Building Regulations and Water Protection Ordinances, which were approved by the Board in August 2008.   Staff then presented a recommendation for Subdivision Ordinance fees to the Board in September 2008. (Attachment B)  The Board directed staff to present that recommendation to the Planning Commission and the Planning Commission to return a recommendation to the Board.   The Planning Commission held worksessions in October 2008 and January 2009.   The Planning Commission then held an ordinance amendment public hearing in March 2009. (Attachment C) Today’s worksession is to review the Planning Commission’s recommendation and staff’s original recommendation on Subdivision Ordinance fees, and to then receive direction from the Board prior to setting the Board’s public hearing for the amendment to the Subdivision Ordinance.  Following completion of the Subdivision Ordinance text amendment, staff plans to bring forward the Zoning Ordinance fee amendments.           



Goal Three:  Develop a comprehensive funding strategy/plan to address the County's growing needs.



Staff Recommendation

The staff recommendation in Attachment B, presented to the Board in September, 2008, attempted to balance two factors, maximizing recovery of County costs associated with required Subdivision Ordinance reviews and maintaining reasonable consistency with fees in comparable localities.  Maximizing cost recovery through fees helps the County reduce the tax support otherwise required for this program.  For example, retaining the current fees means the review costs are largely borne by the taxpayer rather than the subdivision applicant.  Maintaining consistency with other localities assures applicants see similar fees to other localities.  Staff distributed a simple survey to a number of surrounding and comparable localities to see how our processes compared to others. (Attachment E)  Staff found Albemarle County’s processes add costs to the applicant that are related to engaging the neighbors and providing additional oversight by the Planning Commission not seen in most other comparable localities.  Staff balanced this issue by making the applicant responsible for the costs associated with assuring ordinance compliance as typically done in other comparable localities while the County would support those costs resulting from processes above and beyond other localities. Based on the foregoing, the balancing of the two factors roughly equates to a 50% cost recovery, which was staff’s recommendation to the Board at the September, 2008 worksession.    


PC Recommendation    

The Planning Commission was divided on how much of the additional process cost should be the responsibility of the applicant versus the County.   On October 7, 2008, the Planning Commission reviewed the executive summary from the September 2008 Board work session. The minutes from that meeting on subdivision fees are included as Attachment D.   As a result of that meeting, staff was tasked with investigating the outsourcing of engineering reviews, creating separate charges for notices, and analyzing fees at 100% cost recovery.   Staff subsequently found that outsourcing engineering reviews would be complex and recommended this be considered separate from the fees.  


On January 14, 2009, the Planning Commission held a second worksession to consider a revised proposal that included 100% cost recovery during a typical year and provided for a separate fee for notices.   This discussion

included an analysis comparing fees for typical subdivision applications at 50%, 75%, and 100% cost recovery and compared this to fees charged in other localities.   After much discussion, the Planning Commission, by a 4-2 vote, directed staff to proceed to a public hearing with fees set at 75% cost recovery and a new fee to cover the cost of preparing and mailing notices.  


On March 10, 2009, the Planning Commission held a public hearing for the subdivision fees. (Attachment C)  The Planning Commission, by a 4-3 vote, recommended an ordinance amendment that provides for 75% cost recovery, except for family subdivisions, where a 50% cost recovery was recommended.   Attached to the executive summary for this public hearing, staff provided a table of typical fees at 50%, 75% and 100% cost recovery that allowed the Planning Commission to compare these fees with other localities. (The table is Attachment 4 of that executive summary)   As no minutes of this meeting were available at the time this report was prepared, staff notes two speakers from the public hearing.  The first encouraged the County to consider the rollback taxes paid when the property is taken out of land use as an offset for fees. Neither staff nor the Planning Commission agreed with that approach. The second speaker, representing the Free Enterprise Forum, supported staff’s 50% cost recovery recommendation. 


Question for the Board

Based on the earlier ordinance amendments for fees and the September 2008 Board worksession, Staff believes the Board has expressed an interest in maximizing cost recovery while maintaining “fairness” to applicants. Staff and the Planning Commission have attempted to answer the fairness question by comparisons to other localities, both in terms of fees that applicants pay and the process expected of applicants.   Staff continues to believe a 50% cost recovery is appropriate; while the Planning Commission believes a 75% cost recovery is appropriate, with the exception of family subdivisions.  Staff’s recommendation assumes the County should bear responsibility for the additional process costs above most other localities, while the Planning Commission’s recommendation assumes the applicant should bear more of those costs.  Thus, the Board is left with a judgment call on the fairness of a 50% versus 75% cost recovery for the fees.   The crux of that question is whether the applicant should pay for the additional process costs that Albemarle County requires, including increased costs for applications reviewed by the Planning Commission.  



The County currently collects approximately $145,000 from subdivision fees in an average year.  Under Staff’s recommendation, the revenue would increase to approximately $476,000, increasing County revenues by approximately $331,000 in an average year.  Under the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the revenue would increase to approximately $600,000, increasing County revenues by approximately $455,000 in an average year. Due to the building downturn, Staff anticipates applications will be one-half of an average year for FY 09.-10. Assuming the Staff recommended fees were implemented by July 2009, Staff anticipates a revenue increase of approximately $90,000 in FY 09-10.  Assuming the Planning Commission’s recommended fees were implemented by July 2009, Staff anticipates a FY 09-10 revenue increase of approximately $150,000.  


No significant drop in the number of applications is anticipated as a result of the fee increase for either Staff’s or the Planning Commission’s recommended fee increases.   While the increase is significant in many circumstances, the fees remain very small in comparison to the value of the subdivided property.    



Staff requests the Board advise whether to proceed to public hearing based on the Planning Commission’s recommendation for 75% cost recovery, with 50% cost recovery for family subdivisions, or with Staff’s recommendation of 50% cost recovery.  It is noted that the Board can adopt lower fees than what are advertised, but could not raise them above the advertised amounts without re-advertising and holding another public hearing.     



Attachment A – December 2007 Fees Study Executive Summary

Attachment B -  September 3, 2008 Subdivision Fees Executive Summary

Attachment C -  March 2009 Planning Commission Subdivision Fees Executive Summary

Attachment D -  Planning Commission minutes,  Approved Oct 7, 2008 minutes, Draft January 14, 2009 minutes, March 10, 2009 minutes

Attachment E -  Locality survey with respect to notices

Attachment F -  March 10, 2009 Subdivision Text Amendment considered by Planning Commission

Attachment G -  March 10, 2009 Planning Commission Action Letter w/ STA recommendation

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