Routt County adopts building fee increases

Rates effective Jan. 1 in unincorporated areas

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Fee impacts

— County commissioners Tues­day approved fee increases re­­quested by the Routt County Re­­gion­al Building Department, making the new rates effective Jan. 1 in unincorporated areas and potentially setting the tone for upcoming votes by local municipalities.

Discussion of the fee increases also included differing opinions about how best to spark the struggling construction industry.

“I really struggled with this,” Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said about her vote, citing concerns about raising fees for builders during a recession. But she noted that even with the fee increases — which include hikes of about 58 percent each for building permits and plan checks, depending on the scope of the project — Routt County’s rates are equal to or lower than those in many Western Slope jurisdictions. And because the Building Department is an enterprise fund, “it’s not a moneymaker” seeking to generate surplus, Mitsch Bush added — meaning the fees could be reduced should the building industry turn around. The Building Department operates solely with revenues generated by its services.

Commissioners added an open-ended sunset provision to the ordinance approved Tuesday, stating that the county’s building oversight committee will review the fees and revenues “periodically” to see whether the higher rates still are necessary.

The commissioners unanimously approved the fee increases, which will go into effect Jan. 1 in unincorporated areas including North Routt, Milner and Phippsburg. The Oak Creek Town Board is scheduled to address the fee increases Thurs­day, the Steamboat Springs City Council on Dec. 15, and the Yampa Town Board on Jan. 6, Building Department manager Carl Dunham said. Hayden contracts with Windsor-based SAFEBuilt Colorado for building services.

Dunham said each jurisdiction decides its own fee rates, meaning the increases could be approved in Steamboat Springs but not in Oak Creek, for example.

But Tuesday’s vote, in his mind, sent a strong message.

“It all hinged on the Board of County Commissioners,” he said about how local governments could view the proposed fee increases. Steamboat’s City Council gave initial approval to the increases last month, but it expressed a desire to see the county’s response before finalizing the decision.

Dunham provided figures for sample projects to show the impacts of the new rates. The fee increases would total $1,336 on construction of a 2,000-square-foot home valued at about $316,000, he said, and would total nearly $5,000 on a 10,000-square-foot office building valued at $1.5 million.

Dunham said the new rates “won’t cover all of our budget, but it will reduce our losses.” He said the Building Department’s revenues this year are at 49 percent of average revenues for the worst five years of this decade. The department is on pace to collect about $550,000 in revenues this year, he said, after anticipating collection of more than $1.4 million. Dunham also has said the Building Department’s fund balance has decreased by more than $800,000 this year.

“Right now, we need to create a sustainable situation,” Commis­sioner Doug Monger said.

Monger and Mark Halvor­­­son, a Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association board member, said the potential economic impacts from a reduced Building Department — such as longer waits for permits and other construction delays — outweighed the cost of increased fees.

“In my opinion, the loss of service … far exceeds what we consider a nominal increase in fees,” Halvorson said. Michael Roberts, president of Habitat Construction and Design Co., countered that any increase would be painful to local builders.

“I really question whether this increase is warranted,” he said to commissioners. “I don’t see how it’s going to increase incentive for building. … Every extra cost that we add to the cost of building, no matter how small, is significant.”

All agreed the local construction industry faces a rough road in the near, and possibly long-term, future.

Halvorson said the next two to three years are expected “to be less than fruitful” for the industry. Mitsch Bush said a turnaround that could trigger a reversal of the fee increase might not happen soon.

“We’re assuming the construction industry is going to improve in 2010, 2011, 2012,” Mitsch Bush said. “I’m not so sure about that.”

Tom Fox, of Fox Construction, said that in numerous e-mails between Yampa Valley Construc­­tion Trades Association members, the sentiment is largely in favor of the fee increases.

“The majority of people are not in support of letting the Build­­ing Department go under,” Fox said.

Comments

freerider 4 years, 4 months ago

I was on the fence about building this spring , it's actually a good time to build . subs will show up ...but now with this.....no way

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sledneck 4 years, 4 months ago

I was just thinking the EXACT same thing. So much for "affordable housing".

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

If they are going to decrease fees in some future year when building activity increases then why don't they promise that today's builders will be allowed to apply for a rebate in 3 years time at which they will be refunded the difference between the fees then vs now.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

This is another example of the growth of government being non reversible. Politicians never seem willing to wield the axe to share the grief.

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flotilla 4 years, 4 months ago

I was against this, and still disagree with the decision. However, looking at the fee increases, it should not make a modest home or a remodel unaffordable. I feel that what they did was really put a damper on an already suffering industry and that was a huge mistake.

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bubba 4 years, 4 months ago

OK, can anyone name a single instance when a government fee or tax was reduced once it was no longer needed? I am unaware of any.

And while I am in no way supporting this additional cost of building, I don't really believe the first two posters that this added fee will affect anyone's building decision - the fees do not add nearly as much percentage-wise to a construction project as one would be saving on construction costs today vs a few years ago.

Just curious though, if building remains slow for another year and revenues are off, is this department going to raise it's fees again, or lay some people off? With the logic applied to this increase, will we eventually see one project paying the expenses of an entire department because they are the only project in for review? The increase itself is not huge, as a percent of project costs, but the logic behind it sets a scary precedent!

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aichempty 4 years, 4 months ago

From what I've seen, the falling costs of building materials and interest rates more than make up for any increase in the building department fees.

I've got former subs calling me on the phone looking for ANY kind of work. Maybe some of those $30 per hour wage rates are negotiable now, eh?

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sledneck 4 years, 4 months ago

Yes, the falling costs were poised to open the home market to struggling families. That opened door was closed partially by this action.

What so many don't seem to understand or acknowledge is that for every dollar of increased costs someone is shut out. That's an economics FACT.

Furthermore, The tired old excuse that "well. its just a few dollars more" is not going to fly. At some point just the last straw WILL break the camels back. I consider it insanity to think that if we load the truck gradually enough we can put an infinite load on it. Ridiculous. There is a weight limit on dump trucks, for example of 54,000 lbs. If I tell the cops that it's o.k. that my truck weighs 65,000 lbs because I loaded it slowly what do you think he will say? Get real people.

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JLM 4 years, 4 months ago

Why would anyone be raising prices today? Did you notice what happened to sales tax collections in SBS? Down 23%!

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