Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Building Code Fee Increases May Pass Tonight

The skirmish over increased construction fees may be settled tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006) when the City Council votes on a modified ordinance.

Realtors and property owners have objected to a proposed fee increase for renovations and new construction that was proposed at three cents per cubic foot, or $30 per 1,000 cubic feet of building or structure volume. On Monday, Public Works and Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson Maier said it will be reduced to $24 per 1,000 cubic feet up to 50,000, $18 per 1,000 from 50,000 to 100,000 and $17 per $1,000 for volume over 100,000. A table of increases will be spread out over two years, she said.

The fees in question are part of a lengthy list of building sub-code fee increases that the administration says are needed to pay for the cost of making sure buildings meet state standards for plumbing, electric, fire safety and other parts of the Uniform Construction Code. Both local and regional representatives have come out to council meetings to show their displeasure and have met with the administration to negotiate the lower fees.

The outcry has sidelined another ordinance that would increase fees for inspections when buildings or apartments change hands. Outside the council meeting Monday, real estate agency owner John Campbell said talks are still going on to reduce those increases. The administration had proposed a 350 percent increase, from $50 to $175, but Campbell said the group is seeking an increase only to $75 per Certificate of Compliance inspections.

“The group’s position was that they are going to form a task force and revisit the ordinance in its entirety,” he said.

Campbell also disputed the stated need for the building code increases, namely that the Department of Community Affairs wants that inspections operation to be self-supporting through fees. He showed an annual Uniform Construction Code report for the 2005 fiscal year that indicated about $40,000 more in revenues than in costs.

Realtors and lobbyists for lowering the fees met with Wenson Maier outside the meeting Monday and she first came back to say she was pulling the ordinance from the agenda.

“It will be re-fashioned,” she told the council.

But then it turned out the printed copy did not reflect the proposed changes and she asked for the ordinance to be put up for a vote tonight in a corrected version.

--Bernice Paglia


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