Albemarle Fee for All – 1,023% Fee Increase Proposed

 By. Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle County’s fee hungry Planning Commission is at it again.  Increased zoning fees will come up for public hearing at the Planning Commission on November 10th.  In one example, the fee proposal will change the cost of a  “Class B” Home Occupation Permit from $440.00 to $4,500.00 (1,023%).

What is a “Class B Home Occupancy”?  A home based business.  According to Albemarle County Code:

Home Occupation, Class B: An occupation conducted in a dwelling unit, with or without the use of one or more accessory structures, for profit, in connection with which there are employed not more than two (2) persons other than members of the family residing on the premises, which persons may be in addition to such family members.

So at a time when many formerly unemployed Albemarle citizens have created new start up businesses to replace their former employment, the county will mandate a $4,500.00 payment to review their application for a permit (there is not a guarantee of approval).  Do you think this will impact the number of start ups?  The Free Enterprise Forum believes this would have a significant negative impact AND is directly in conflict with Albemarle County’s intent to have citizens live, work and play in a smaller geographic footprint.

Activist Planning Commission

This proposal did not come out of nowhere.  Staff has been working on revising the fee structures for some time.  The staff provided an update to the Board of Supervisors on August 5th.  The Board of Supervisors provided direction to staff to move forward with the fees presented in their staff report.

The Albemarle County Planning Commission in its October 6th meeting decided (in a 4-3 vote Franco, Joseph, Morris opposed) to ignore both the Board direction and staff’s recommendation and to advertise fees far higher those endorsed by the Board of Supervisors.  This action preserved the Planning Commission’s legal ability to consider higher fees than the staff recommendation. [State law mandates fees enacted can not be higher than those advertised for Public Hearing.]

This is not the first time the Planning Commission has decided their advisory role to the Board does not mean they must follow Board direction.  As documented in our October 2008 post, the PC increased the subdivision fee proposal despite BOS concerns.  

Impact on Economic Development

Localities across the nation are dropping fees and streamlining the development approval process to incentivize development activity.  Never one to follow the crowd, Albemarle County is talking about economic development at one meeting and enacting six fold increases on an administrative review of a final site plan in another.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes these fee increases, and the other fee increases already approved will negatively impact the cost of housing stock (and commercial property) in Albemarle County.  A close friend often reminds me “No business ever pays taxes, the consumer does”.  In the world of economic development, such high fees will provide significant reasons for businesses not to locate or expand in Albemarle.

A close examination of the chart below indicates the significance of the proposed increases the Planning Commission has advertised this time around.

Selected Proposed Zoning Fee Increases      
Albemarle      
  Current Proposed %
  Fee Fee Increase
       
Zoning Text Amendment $ 840 $ 10,500 1250%
       
Zoning Map Amendments      
Planned Development < 50 acres $ 1,200 $ 13,500 1125%
Planned Development > 50 acres $ 1,570 $ 27,000 1720%
All other amendments < 50 acres $ 1,020 $ 13,500 1324%
All other amendments > 50 acres $ 1,570 $ 27,000 1720%
Deferral of scheduled public hearing at applicant request $ 35 $ 180 514%
       
Special Use Permits      
Rural Area Division $ 1,240 $ 3,000 242%
Home Occupation- Class A $ 13 $ 25 192%
Home Occupation- Class B $ 440 $ 4,500 1023%
Each additional resubmittal after 1st resubmittal n/a $ 2,250 n/a
       
Site Plans      
Final Site Plan – Administrative Review $ 410 $ 2,625 640%
Final Site Plan Planning Commission Review $ 1,130 $ 4,500 398%
       
Matters considered by Board of Zoning Appeals      
Variances $ 120 $ 1,275 1063%
Appeals $ 120 $ 240 200%
       
Matters considered by Architectural Review Board      
Site Plan n/a $ 2,600 n/a
Building Permit per ARB review n/a $ 590 n/a
       
Matters Considered by Zoning Administrator or others      
Official determination regarding compliance $ 75 $ 185 247%
Official determination regarding development rights $ 40 $ 750 1875%
All other official determinations $ 75 $ 1,400 1867%

The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to make your voice heard regarding this proposal.  Albemarle County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on this issue on November 10th.  I anticipate a number of concerned citizens may speak at the hearing or share their thoughts via e-mail  PlanningCommission@albemarle.org.

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