Wednesday, October 18, 2000
Steamboat Springs Councilman Paul Strong's premonition Tuesday night of having to deal with a "roomful of angry developers" when the new planning fees go up for a final vote may, in fact, materialize.
Although some developers and architects believe the Planning Department was long overdue for an increase in fees, many in the developing community are angry about the new charges and, when the council prepares to make a final vote, will be ready and willing to defend their turf.
"They're setting the stage for allowing only the wealthy to live here," said Patricia MacArthur, a local real estate broker. "The city needs to curtail some of its own spending first."
MacArthur said the costs will invariably be passed on by the developers to consumers. She said she believes the city has been fiscally irresponsible and is attempting to solve its problems by passing its costs off onto the development community.
Eventually, she said, the working people of Steamboat Springs will be the ones who lose out.
"I worry about how the working-class people are going to get hit by this," echoed developer Brent Romick. "It's grossly unfair to increase the fees at the increments we're talking about. They're ridiculous."
He plans to attend the November meeting at which there will be a final vote on the new fees and voice his concerns.
Council members were concerned about the cost to consumers, but decided that the current fees just didn't cut it.
"Any time that we change anything that raises housing costs in Steamboat, it is a concern," Strong said. "But when people are building new developments, the people who take advantage of those developments will pay for those costs."
Others in the real estate community are less concerned about the proposed increases. They believe the Planning Department has probably been undercharging for years.
"Basically, the bottom line is our rates are cheap," said Paul Ackerman of Steamboat Architectural Associates. "They're a lot more expensive in other places."
Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg, who presented the proposal to increase planning fees to the City Council, said she had researched the policies of other communities such as Steamboat Springs in both California and Colorado and found that their fees greatly exceeded Steamboat Springs' current charges.
In Aspen, for instance, the Planning Department charges $1,155 for a deposit on a minor development permit. The city also has an hourly planning fee of $195.
And if an application must be reviewed by the Historical Preservation Society, the applicant can incur additional costs.
In comparison, Steamboat's flat fee for a minor development permit is currently only $125. The new fee schedule would increase the charge to $875.
Schulenberg discussed undertaking a study to determine a suitable hourly rate for processing permits and other applications but decided that, in the meantime, the new flat fees should be put into place.
Steamboat's current fees bring in only about $75,000 to the city, some of which are eaten up by traffic study costs and other planning-related expenses.
The option the Council voted to approve on first reading would recoup about $334,265 a year, Schulenberg said.
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