Community Development Fees – Building Regulations and Water Protection Ordinances




Proposed increase in building permit and inspection fees and Water Protection Ordinance fees; establishment of a fee policy




Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, and Schlothauer






April 9, 2008


ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   











The purpose of this worksession is to receive Board direction on staff recommended fee increases for fees established in the Building Regulations and Water Protection ordinances and to establish a policy for future updates.   At the December 5, 2007 Board meeting, staff presented a Community Development Fee Study and a recommendation for a policy on updating fees in the future. (Attachment A)  Given the limited amount of time for discussion and the complexity, it was not possible for the Board to give specific direction on revised fees.  This executive summary attempts to simplify this by limiting consideration, for now, to only the fees set forth in these two ordinances and a policy for use in establishing future fee increases.         




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




The discussion is divided into three specific topics: fees in the Water Protection Ordinance, permit and inspection fees in the Building Regulations Ordinance, and a policy for future update of fees in both ordinances.  


Water Protection Ordinance (WPO)

Fees in the WPO have received more recent attention than fees in other ordinances administered by Community Development, but have lagged behind cost of services in recent years.  To assist the Board in understanding how Albemarle County fees compare to other localities, staff has provided a fee comparison in Attachments B and C.  This recommendation is for fees that provide close to full cost recovery while remaining comparable to other localities.  As discussed with the Board during consideration of the recent Rural Areas ordinance amendments and budget process, these proposed fee increases would provide funding for an additional reviewer/inspector.  Staff found the fees comparable to other localities, but notes every locality appears to have unique characteristics with their fee structure. The most important fee difference is associated with plan reviews and inspections for plans. (Attachment B: Fee ID#   69 & 70)  Instead of calculating this fee by the acre, staff has recognized that the cost is better correlated to required reviews and inspections, with a plan renewal fee to address the second year cost of inspections. It is noted this structure provides an incentive for the developer to complete the grading activity as quickly as possible, which also reduces the staff effort needed on the site. Finally, it should be noted this recommendation does not include Water Protection Ordinance requirements where the fees are listed in the Subdivision or Zoning Ordinances (e.g. groundwater assessment).  Those proposed fee changes will be addressed at a future date. 


Building Regulations

A comparison of recommended building fees with those in neighboring localities is provided in Attachment D, which demonstrates the revised fees are comparable to those localities. Staff notes there is one significant change to consider.  For single family houses, new construction and additions (Fee ID #107), staff is recommending revising the

current fee structure, which currently requires the owner/contractor to obtain a building permit and numerous sub-permits.   Staff is recommending this be simplified to one permit with all of the costs for the various sub-permits wrapped into one permit.  This is explained in Attachment E.   This greatly improves both the permit processing and understanding of costs for owners/applicants.  It also removes an obstacle to online processing of permits, where the complexity of the sub-permits has made it almost impossible to calculate the fees without a discussion with the applicant.   Staff is interested in expanding this concept to other building permits, but recognizes permit complexities present unique challenges for many of the situations with commercial uses.  As such, staff is only recommending this approach for single family housing at this time, but will continue to investigate how it can be done with other building permits.  Again, these proposed fees target fees that provide close to full cost recovery but remain comparable to other localities.   


Automatic Fee Adjustment Policy

Staff believes the reason fees have failed to keep current is the County has never established a policy for automatic adjustment of fees associated with the development ordinances. To assure Community Development administered programs are properly managed, staff believes it is critical to establish a fee adjustment policy in the future.  When proposed adjustments to the Subdivision and Zoning Ordinances are reviewed with the Board in a future work session, a proposed fee adjustment policy will be reviewed and proposed as well.




Historically, the County has seen revenues of approximately $940,000 in fees per year from these two ordinances. With the recommended changes, the fees collected are estimated to increase to $1,420,000 in a typical year. Under the County Executive’s proposed FY 08-09 budget, it was anticipated that revised Community Development fees would increase revenues by approximately $260,000 in the next fiscal year.  The fees in this recommendation are estimated to generate an additional $380,000 in the next fiscal year and $480,000 in a typical year.   The additional $120,000 projected increase in funding from these proposed fee increases would offset the cost of the two currently frozen positions in Community Development, including the inspector needed to enforce the recently amended Rural Areas ordinances.     




Staff offers the following recommendations:

1.                   Direct staff to bring forward changes to the Water Protection Ordinance fees as proposed in Attachment B, with any other changes the Board determines appropriate.

2.                   Direct staff to bring forward changes to the Building Regulations Ordinance fees as proposed in Attachment D, with any other changes the Board determines appropriate.




Attachment A – December 5, 2007 Executive Summary, Community Development Fee Study

Attachment B -  Water Protection Ordinance recommended fees and comparisons

Attachment C -  Additional Comparisons of  WPO fees to neighboring localities

Attachment D – Building Regulation Ordinance recommended fees and comparisons

Attachment E -  Building Official memo on changes to fees structure for single family houses


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