Clinton County looks to increase Building & Zoning fees; would be first hike since ‘05

By Gary Huffenberger - [email protected]

WILMINGTON — The Clinton County Building & Zoning (B&Z) Department is poised to increase its fees for the first time since 2005.

Clinton County commissioners indicate they will be looking at the proposals closer and will in the coming weeks further discuss the matter.

When user fees associated with building projects and zoning increase, construction contractors can of course be expected to pass that cost increase on to the home buyer.

B&Z Manager Walt Daniel said the proposals would not drastically change costs for builders of smaller houses such as a 2,000- or 2,300-square-foot house say, “but as you get into the larger homes, the increases in square footage [consequently] increases the permit price because it goes back to the amount of inspections [needed].”

The larger-home projects require more inspections, said Daniel.

He added, “If I’m building a house, I would expect to pay more for a 4,000- or 5,000-square-foot house for my building permit than the fellow who’s building an 1,800-square-foot.”

Assistant B&Z Manager Joshua Harmon said a typical 1,800-square-foot house around here has on average about a $220,000 reported cost-to-build. Currently, the fees for such a dwelling is about $691. Under proposed Option 1 that would increase to $781; under proposed Option 2 it would go up to $985; and under proposed Option 3 it would be about $1,290.

In light of that $200,000-plus investment in the example, Harmon said he thinks even the cost of fees in Option 3 — which has the highest cost of the proposed options — “is not unrealistic.”

One more example. Currently, the fees for a new 3,200-square-foot house in the county is about $893. Under proposed Option 1 that would increase to $1,083; under proposed Option 2 it would go up to $1,357; and under proposed Option 3 it would be about $1,988.

To summarize how the fees for the three different options are calculated, proposed Option 1 would put an additional per square-foot fee to residential construction projects over 4,000 square feet, and would introduce new permits to address community needs, according to a B&Z handout.

Proposed Option 2 would incorporate universal baseline fee increase of 35 percent for residential permits, and would build upon the adjustments made in Option 1.

And proposed Option 3 would, using current tier baseline fees, include per square-foot charges to all residential permits, stated the handout.

A new miscellaneous permit fee of $100 would go into effect when there’s a requested and/or extra inspection. In the B&Z trade, a requested inspection — often relating to fire or storm damage — is referred to as a consultation, said Daniel.

Say a tree limb has hit the trusses that support the roof, and the insurance company says you need to patch them.

“Of course, we’re not allowed to patch a truss. You have got to take that truss out,” the B&Z manager said.

One reason for a new $50 demolition fee for houses (not sheds) is Daniel feels that officials need to see that the septic system on the property is properly taken care of because otherwise a child from down the road can get into that septic system.

Also, sometimes people will bury the debris of the demolished house in the ground.

“I just think that we just kind of need to know a little bit about what they’re taking down and what they’re doing with the debris once they take it down,” said Daniel.

When it comes to zoning, the B&Z’s current zoning fee is one $60 fee for any project of any size in any zoning district. The proposal is to create a sliding scale based on square footage, going up to a maximum of $250 for a residential project that’s 2,001 square feet or more.

Also being suggested is a partial change in the zoning fee associated with a conditional-use permit, or requests for variances and rezoning — all currently a $200 fee. The proposal is to keep the zoning fee at $200 for a project zoned agricultural or residential, but make it a $400 fee for a project zoned commercial or industrial.

During a presentation about the proposed fee schedule updates to county commissioners, it was stated 48 new single-family homes were built last year in the county. Their average size was 3,300 square feet.

At the half-way point this year (end of June), the county B&Z Department had issued permits for 32 new homes.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

By Gary Huffenberger

[email protected]