Pitkin County fee hike proposal shelved until next week
December 3, 2014
The Pitkin County Community Development Department has seen a significant enough surge in building-permit applications this year that it wants to increase some of its fees, but commissioners cautioned Tuesday that they need more context before approving the hikes.
The department's proposal was scheduled for a first reading at today's regular Pitkin County commissioners meeting. But given the complexity of the proposal made at Tuesday's work session, commissioners, acting on the advice of County Manager Jon Peacock, scheduled a meeting for Dec. 9 dedicated solely to the matter.
"We are now no longer in a depressed state as far as the building economy in Pitkin County," Community Development Director Cindy Houben told the commissioners. "We are up in revenue significantly."
But the department hasn't raised its fees since last decade, Houben said, proposing that planning fees be increased from $312 an hour to $325 an hour.
"This is a 4 percent increase over the last six years," Houben said. "We haven't increased that fee and we think that's in keeping with what we're looking at as far as the workload, and we don't think that's too big of a jump to expect."
More significant fee hikes are proposed for zoning examinations. For instance, a 2,500-square-foot zoning review costs $455; the proposed increase is $1,295 (the city of Aspen charges $3,375 for the same service). A wide range of other hikes also are on the table, but Commissioner Rob Ittner said that a better "understanding of the bigger picture is crucial to making bigger decisions like this."
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Commissioner Michael Owsley also said more time is needed before commissioners can provide feedback on the proposal, and he wondered why Community Development's fees aren't pondered each year.
"The problem of not raising fees for the past 10-plus years, that's a fault," he said. "We have to review it on an annual basis. (Roaring Fork Transportation Authority), if they drop their fees, they have a drop-off in ridership. I don't think if we raise our fees we'll have a drop-off in applications.
"To wait 10 years, that's not good."
Ittner also said that the fee hikes might not affect the wallets of "mega-mansion person" but "these fees are going to affect the regular resident here."
Houben, who said the hikes would equate to an additional $100,000 to $112,000 in annual revenue, said her team will assemble a more comprehensive set of fee hikes to better guide the commissioners. The issue will go to a first reading in January.
While the proposed planning and zoning fees ordinance was shelved for a week, the commissioners will proceed today with their first reading of the fees ordinance for the Environmental Health Department, which is seeking a $100 renewable permit fee for on-site wastewater-treatment systems, and a $50 fee for minor repair permits for pipes and pump replacements. Commissioners said they would not support the $50 fee because it does not encourage homeowners to comply with the county's reporting requirements for such fixes.