Paradise Valley Town Council looks to amend building fees

Members of Paradise Valley Town Council and staff during a study session. (file photo)

Paradise Valley Town Council is taking initial steps to update a selection of development and planning fees associated with building within the municipal boundaries.

During its Dec. 15 study session held at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, the council was presented with the beginning steps to revise fees related to the planning and engineering department, as well as fire prevention, application and administration costs.

The current fee schedule is derived from a 1997 uniform building code, Director of Administration and Government Affairs Dawn Marie Buckland explained at the study session.

Previous revisions include a comprehensive one in 2008 — with a 3.4 percent increase in fees across the board — and one prior in 2002 when evaluations for single-family homes and garages were updated.

Fees being evaluated fall into a number of different categories, including permits for building, plumbing, mechanical and electrical; building code appeal; request for change of address fee; and fire prevention.

“We are looking at each of these fees,” said Ms. Buckland during the Dec. 15 meeting.

“We are looking at the cost associated with activities. Our recommendation back to you will share what the full cost is, as well as a staff recommendation and then we’ll be looking for some policy direction from the council in terms of policy recovery.”

In evaluating each fee, staff will look at staff hours, tasks and resources needed to process a permit, plan or other type of application, Ms. Buckland says.

“So, today, we wanted to come with the methodology and approach that is a part of that. Being able to bring back a similar plan that says ‘if we were to build this home today under the current fees here’s what we would expect. Under the new fees, here’s what that same home would accumulatively cost,’ but we don’t have that today.”

Senior Planner Eva Cutro explained to council how the fees are calculated based upon the layout of the home and square footage.

“The fee charge for the review is a percentage of the permit fee,” Ms. Cutro explained.

“So if you build a $10 million home and your permit fee is $10,000, your plan review fee is 65 percent of that. Again, just because our homes cost more per square foot, we get a larger permit fee just because our homes are valued more than the other towns, but all the towns pretty much use the same fee schedule from the Uniform Building Code.”

The difficulty with the cost is not all plans take the same amount of staff time or resources.

“It’s tough because some plans might be easy to review, and some plans may not be, but they all pay the same application fee, so we do it based on an average,” said Ms. Cutro.

Paradise Valley Councilman Jerry Bien-Willner suggested to town staff that a streamlined process might be beneficial.

“I think it’s probably smart to go with a system that’s tried and true with looking at a standardized way of dealing with this, with the building codes and how other jurisdictions do it,” he said.

“Towards that point, I’d like to avoid imposing additional regulatory burden that might not be necessary. If there’s a way to streamline that or have it make more sense for what typically gets built in our town, I would be open to that.”

A proposed schedule outlines a fees presentation to town council on Jan. 26; with council action on March 23. The new fees are proposed to go into effect May 1, according to Ms. Buckland.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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