Council eyes hiking permit, zoning fees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

A new proposal for permit and zoning fee increases would hit new-home builders hardest, according to figures presented to the Austin City Council at Tuesday night's work session.

A 1,800-square-foot house with an attached three-stall garage and unfinished basement, evaluated by a contractor at $300,000 would currently cost about $950 for permits and zoning fees. Under the proposed system, that same house would cost about $2,315.

The proposal updates the current fee schedule, which is based on the 1988 Uniform Building Code system to one-half of the 1994 fee schedule, according to a presentation by Zoning Administrator Craig Hoium.

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But the 1994 fee schedule is not the most recent system. But because the city can not use the fees to generate revenue, the top scale is not an option. Fees can only cover the cost of services.

According to 2002 budget estimates by Hoium, the city lost more than $40,000 that year because fees were too low.

The proposal also creates one standard for fees instead of separating residential and commercial properties. Currently, commercial buildings pay more for services than residential buildings.

"A lot of residential projects are a lot more complex and require a lot more work than commercial buildings," Hoium said.

The council authorized City Attorney David Hoversten to prepare the proposal for a vote at the soonest possible meeting.

Also discussed at the session was the adoption of 2000 International Building, Residential and Fire Codes with state amendments. The new codes attempt to create more consistent standards for buildings throughout the nation and have been adopted by the state. The city needs to adopt them to stay consistent with state law.

The Cooperative Response Center was granted another year to meet the 25-new-jobs criteria for their state loan. CEO Todd Penske said that the economic downturn since the September 11 terrorist attacks has forced him to tighten up the budget. He expects to hit the 20-job mark by the end of this year, which would leave the company one year to create five new jobs.

The council reviewed the Minnesota State Retirement System, which allows employees to store tax-free money in a health care fund. The various unions and departments as well as non-union individuals will be submitting applications for the program to the council for approval over the next few months.

The council approved a $361 quarter-page advertisement for the Austin Daily Herald's Spruce Up Austin section. A portion of the money will go to Spruce Up Austin, a private organization responsible for landscaping and other projects in the Austin area.

It passed 4-1 with 3rd Ward Council Member Tracey Chamberlain voting against because he thought the money could be put to better use. First Ward Council Member Lynn Koch was absent.

Council member At Large Wayne Goodnature said he abstained for personal reasons.

"I don't like the Herald," he said. "I'd like to burn that place down."