Panel considers fee hikes, church chimesThe Douglas County Planning and Zoning committee tackled fees and noisy bells during a morning meeting today.
By: Maria Lockwood, The Daily Telegram
The Douglas County Planning and Zoning committee tackled fees and noisy bells during a morning meeting today.
Committee members approved fee hikes for land-use permits covering houses, accessory buildings and sanitary systems today. The recommendation was moved forward to the administration committee for approval.
If approved, the new fees could go into effect as soon as June 1.
The cost for a land-use permit for a dwelling would climb from $135 to $170. Medium-sized accessory building permits would cost $75 instead of $60 and large accessory building permits would rise $15 to $100.
Sanitary system permits would rise from $275 to $335; the permit for a holding tank would jump to $262. The cost of a petition for amendment to zoning ordinance would rise to $160 and a conditional-use permit would cost $85 instead of $75.
The increases are needed to offset the dropping number of permits being requested, according to Steve Rannenberg, Douglas County zoning administrator.
“This is a statewide trend,” he told the committee. “There has been a significant slowdown.”
Fewer buildings are being constructed, Rannenberg said, yet the cost for wages and insurance keep rising. Unless the county sees a dramatic increase in building activity, he said, the department could see shortfalls. A modest increase in revenue from fees and cutting expenses could keep the department in the black.
“We want to keep working on the cost aspect too,” said committee member Nick Baker of Superior.
Carol Johnson of Hawthorne was the only committee member to vote against the fee hike. Fees were last raised in January 2007.
“You can fee people to death,” she said.
Fees, unlike a tax, are targeted to the people who use the service.
Even so, said committee member Rich Thompson of Foxboro, “I think sooner or later it will effect what people do.”
The panel also took on the issue of chimes.
A local squabble over church bells that chime 12 times a day in Foxboro came under scrutiny during the meeting.
For nearly two years, the church bells at St. William Catholic Church have been a point of contention between neighbors Fred and Rita Stalvig, and Bill and Joan Thompson. The county board is the latest rung in the ladder the Stalvigs have climbed to try to silence the bells. The couple, who live across the road from the church, have appealed for relief from the St. William parish council, the Rev. Ron Olson who leads services there and even the Superior Diocese.
The church has repositioned one speaker, Rita Stalvig told the committee, but they continue to play two- to three-minute songs every hour from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The couple submitted a request for a county noise ordinance to the planning and zoning committee in March.
Committee members expressed concern over the situation.
“We’ve seen big controversy in the county over the bell,” Baker said.
“It’s too bad they can’t work things out,” Thompson said.
However, they were wary of an ordinance.
“I think it could open a can of worms,” Thompson said.
Members questioned how an ordinance could take into account barking dogs or nearby shooting ranges. Noise ordinances are “very hard to enforce,” Johnson said. “They just encourage neighbors to fight with each other.”
The committee voted to send letters to the church, Superior town board and Superior Diocese telling them the committee is investigating noise ordinances in other counties and villages.
“We’re not saying a noise ordinance is in the works,” she said. “We’re not saying a noise ordinance is not in the works. We’re giving them an opportunity to solve this.”