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|
|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|
|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.