Planning board asks for building permit fee schedule to be changed

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Decatur County Planning Board asked County Building Inspector Craig Smith to develop a new system for the county’s building permit fee pay schedule, near the end of the board’s work session Tuesday afternoon.

Toward the end of the one-and-a-half-hour work session, Planning Board member Charles Hadsock made a motion that Smith should develop a draft for a different pay schedule. Under the county’s current building permit fee schedule, fees are assessed based on the square footage of a building. Hadsock asked for Smith to develop a schedule where fees would instead be charged based on the value of the building, similar to the method used by the City of Bainbridge and many surrounding counties. The motion was seconded by June Faircloth.

Smith, who currently leads the county’s planning department after former Planning Director Paul Soudi was fired Monday, said the county already uses a valuation method for some projects.

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“We use valuation for remodels and revisions,” he said. “We just don’t currently use it for new construction.”

The present members of the planning board voted 2-1 for Smith to work on a new pay schedule draft over the next two weeks, and be ready to present it at the planning board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for April 24 at 1:30 p.m. at the county administration building. Hadsock and Faircloth voted for the motion, while Alan Davis voted against it. Planning Board members Kelvin Bouie and James Cooper, and Chairman Dean Free, were not present. Vice Chairman David Conoly did not vote.

The issue of building permit fees came to light recently, when a citizen addressed county commissioners at their Tuesday, Feb. 28, meeting. He said he had to pay a permit fee of $2,100 for an agricultural storage building that would have cost him $365 to permit in the City of Bainbridge. According to him, the same building would have cost nothing to permit in Grady or Seminole counties.

The county currently calculates its fees for “new construction and additions” based on square footage. Residential (heated) is $0.26 per square foot; residential (unheated) is $0.19 per square foot; commercial is $0.25 per square foot; industrial is $0.26 per square foot; and storage is $0.19 per square foot.

Under the planning board’s suggestion, the building permit fee schedule would instead be based on the value of the building being constructed. For example, in the City of Bainbridge, construction valued at $1,000 and less has a permit fee of $20 for each inspection. Construction valued at $1,001 to $50,000 has a fee of $20 for the first $1,000 plus $5 for each additional $1,000; construction valued at $50,001 to $100,000 has a fee of $265 for the first $50,000 plus $4 for each additional $1,000; and so on.

In Seminole County, there is no fee for $1,000 or less; for construction valued at $1,001 to $50,000, the fee is $15 for the first $1,000 plus $4 for each additional $1,000; and so on. Additional fees could be assessed for electrical, plumbing, and other additions.

“You’ll never have a system that’s perfect for everything,” Hadsock said. “But this way of doing it does seem more fair and seem like it would cut down the costs of our fees.”

Dr. Charles Stafford, the chairman of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners, was also in attendance at Tuesday’s work session. He told the planning board that once they had arrived at a final draft for a valuation-based pay schedule, it would then have to be presented to the commissioners and they would have to vote on it.

“It is possible that we could address this issue by our late May commissioners’ meeting,” he said.