Town to state: don’t change local building permit fees

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BURRILLVILLE – A statewide plan to change the way fees for building permits are assessed could increase costs for some doing business in Burrillville, and local officials are asking permission to keep the town’s current fee schedule intact.

The Town Council voted unanimously last week to send a letter to the state building commission requesting an extension of the transition period to implement new fees, that some say could double or even triple the cost of town permitting.

“We want to keep our existing building fee structure per our ordinance,” said Town Manager Michael Wood. “In almost every scenario our residents would save money.”

The discussing came in reaction to H 7843, a bill in the General Assembly that would establish a process and formula building permit fees in each of state’s 39 cities and towns.

Town Building Inspector Joseph Raymond noted that the bill came about in reaction to some towns charging “a considerable amount more money than their department was actually supplying in services.”

But in Burrillville, Raymond said, often the opposite is true.

“Our fee schedule is actually more moderate than what they propose for us. We don’t particularly like the idea of the shell shock that would come down on people in town if they suddenly find themselves paying two to three times what they’re paying right now,” said Raymond.

“Right now we’re at a pretty modest level and people come in and get their permits, and I’m satisfied with that.”

The schedules put forth by the Rhode Island Building Code Commission have fees that vary from town to town, through a formula that factors in “various data inputs including but not limited to the size of the municipality, the budget and size of the municipality’s department, division or office that works on permitting issues, and the number and types of permitting actions that occur within the municipality,” according to the agency.

Both the Rhode Island Association of Realtors and the Rhode Island Business Coalition signed in opposition against the bill for changing the fees.

Burrillville’s current fee structure was developed in 2009, and includes five categories of building permit fees based on valuation. For small projects costing $1,000 or less, the town charges just $25 for a building permit.

Under the state proposal, the same permit would come with the minimum fee of $65.

Projects valued between $10,001 and $100,000 cost $115 plus additional $7 per thousand. For a $50,000 project, that would come to $465. The state schedule would see that cost change to $100 plus an additional $8 per $1,000, or $500.

For larger projects, however, it seems the state structure could bring costs somewhat down. A project valued at $200,000 would come with a fee of $745 plus an additional $5 per thousand, or $1,745 currently. The new schedule would see construction charged at a rate of $420 plus $6 per $1,000 exceeding $50,000 or $1,320.

“The fees we have now are representative of what it costs us to do the service,” Wood said. “We’ve done a good job of capturing our costs in what

Towns were given until June 1 to submit information and send a letter to the state requesting a continuation on implementation of the new schedules.

Councilor Jeremy Bailey asked if the town will ultimately be able to keep its policy. Raymond said that the commission will review the town’s request, and if it is approved the regular fee structure will stay in place until at least July 2019.

“Most people that are doing this are trying to show why they actually charge more and why they have to,” said Raymond. “We’re kind of showing why we charge less.”