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Albemarle supervisors approve development fee hikes

Fees for companies that want to develop properties in Albemarle County will increase July 1.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night voted to increase Community Development Department fees around building regulations, subdivisions and streets, water protection and zoning.

The fees help CDD recover a portion of the cost of providing services, officials said, and county staff said that lack of regular, adopted increases in fee levels over several years has resulted in the percentage of cost recovery per fee reducing over time.

In 2008, the board adopted a policy for updating the levels of existing fees, where if board-approved staff salaries increased cumulatively by a certain percentage over the course of the two years, CDD fees would increase by that same percentage. But that policy has not been followed, staff said.

Steve Allshouse, the county’s manager of forecasting and performance, said that if the board had followed the policy, the fees would already be at the level of the proposed increase.

“If we’re talking about the fees that existed at the time of the 2008 policy adoption, the fees I’d be proposing this evening would be exactly identical,” he said. “Keep in mind that we have proposed some new things so those wouldn’t have existed in 2008, but there would be absolutely no difference between what I’m proposing now and what would have occurred if the policy had been followed through.”

For services for which CDD charges a fee, cost recovery is about 40%, which is consistent with the overall percentage in the fee study that led to the 2008 policy. Allshouse said CDD’s budgeted fee revenue comes to roughly 31% of total CDD budgeted expenditures in Fiscal Year 2021.

New fees related to architectural review, water protection and building-related services, as well as a new 4% technology surcharge, also will go into effect July 1.

Allshouse said the money generated by the technology fee would go toward a new technology system for community development.

“County View is a very old system — it’s 16 years old,” he said. “It’s a very difficult system used both for staff and for people outside of the county who are trying to get a development done, and so at some point, we needed to update this.”

To get to the 4% surcharge, he said he used a placeholder for what the county thought the costs of such a system might be, and divided that by three, as CDD would share the cost with other departments, and based it on yearly costs and revenues.

“This is in line with what we found when we were looking around the state at the other fees,” Allshouse said.

Previously, Allshouse had told the board that the increases should be seen as an interim step, and staff plan to ask the board in FY 23 for funding for a new fee study.

In March, the Planning Commission supported fee increases around subdivisions and zoning, as the commission has “a relationship to the fees” in those chapters of the county code.

During the public hearing, Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said he was confused.

“When you last discussed this proposed fee increase, we pointed out [in] your audited FY 20 financial statement, it shows community development total cost of services went down by over 4% and the net cost of services went down by over 2%,” he said. “In comparison, general government net costs increased 25%, yet here you are raising community development fees. I am confused.”

Allshouse said that looking at five years of the financial reports, costs had increased about 9%.

Williamson said the Free Enterprise Forum, a local pro-business advocacy organization, believes the ordinance “will make it a quarter of a million dollars more expensive to build homes and enterprises in Albemarle County.”

“This is not business friendly nor supportive of housing affordability but it might slow development in the development areas,” Williamson said. “Perhaps, if that is a part of the goal, I may not be as confused.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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