Planning fees may go up...way up

A permit to build a church that today costs $250 soon could cost as much as $1,612.

A review of Carson City's planning fees shows the Community Development Department recoups only $37,000 of the $865,000 it costs the department to process everything from special-use permits to subdivision maps. A $16,000 study of fee-related services shows the city subsidizes a variety of development permits between 95 percent and 100 percent.

The Carson City Planning Commission will review Thursday a new rate structure, which could raise rates for those services by as much as 95 percent -- and still wouldn't cover all the costs.

Community Development Director Walt Sullivan said the city hasn't raised its planning fees since 1987, and he started requesting in 1993 a study by an outside firm to determine exactly what the department should be charging.

Planning commissioners will review a list of fees that could see a major special-use permit, used for something like a large, commercial building, rise in cost between 77 and 82 percent from $325 to $1,424 at a 70 percent subsidy rate to $1,899 at a 60 percent subsidy rate. The estimated cost from staff time to postage involved in processing the permit is $4,748.

For the average homeowner, a lot line adjustment, for example, would go up 87 to 90 percent, from $75 to $555 or $740. Processing costs for the adjustments are $1,850 -- almost 25 times the current charge.

"The general taxpayers are paying too much (for) development proposals," Sullivan said.

On top of the increased fees, Sullivan said, the department may ask permit applicants to pay postage costs associated with their projects, which can be significant because of requirements for notifying affected neighbors.

The planning commission meeting will be an opportunity to gauge community reaction to the proposal, Sullivan said.

A meeting with members of the building community most affected by the fee is set for today. However, Rick DeMar, executive officer of the Builders Association of Western Nevada, said the city will have to "justify the need" for the fee increase for builders to go along with it.

"They're under a lot of pressure. They have a lot of responsibility to the community," De Mar said of city officials. "If than can justify this need, then I would imagine that my association would endorse it."

Carson Finance Director David Heath said the city's internal finance committee reviewed the rate proposals and awaits a Planning Commission reaction to the rates before making any recommendations.

"We're very sensitive to rate shock," he said. "Because this issue hasn't been dealt with in many, many years we want to try to ease the burden (by) not doing it all at once."

Sullivan agreed that if the new fees are approved, a gradual introduction of the rates would help community development customers adjust. Also, he suggested three fees -- for review by the Historic Architecture Review Commission, Downtown Design Review and major project review -- shouldn't see an increase.

Heath said any money earned from the increases -- estimated at $300,000 -- would go into the city's general fund and could be used to offset potential future property tax increases in tough budget times.


What: Carson City Planning Commission special meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Carson City Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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