City seeks fair permit systemThe goal is to create a fair system for charging building permit fees in the city of Superior.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The goal is to create a fair system for charging building permit fees in the city of Superior.
It’s a system that would assure that one city resident, who built a 672-square-foot garage in 2008, wouldn’t pay more in building inspection fees than a resident who built a 784-square-foot garage two years later.
Under the existing fee structure, people estimate the cost or value of the project to determine the cost of building permits. The result is a vast discrepancy in costs for similar structures.
The Superior City Council considers changing that next week. A new fee structure that bases permit costs on the size and nature of the project — and number of inspections required — could replace the value-based system.
This all came out of that fee study done in late 2010, said City Assessor Brad Theien.
It would eliminate the value estimates that allow construction costs to vary from $1.46 per square foot to $43.62, according to findings of a three-year survey of 98 garage construction projects in Superior.
While five people built 20-by-24 foot garages during that time, permit costs ranged from $36.30 to $125.67, for the same size garage. All but one permit cost less than $100.
“It really has no relation to the amount of work building inspection has to do,” Theien said of the value-based fee structure. He said when the size and scope of a project increases, so does the amount of work building inspection has to do in relation to the project.
“It’s a totally inequitable process,” Theien said.
The new fee structure would put the cost of building permits for a 20-by-24 foot garage at $120, irrespective of the cost to build it.
While building inspection officials know the rough cost of building, Chief Building Inspector Dan Curran said, staff is in no position to argue those values when someone says they can build at a lesser cost.
Under a fee based on square footage, it takes the subjective nature of value estimates out of the equation.
“This really takes a lot of the darkness out of the equation and it’s really quite enlightening in terms of the simplicity,” Curran said. “We’ve been working on it for a long time … we’ve looked at every type of construction imaginable and taken that and boiled it down, something that a common layman can understand.”
The program is broken down to two types of construction, residential and commercial. The permit costs are based on the type and scope of construction or project.
For new residential construction, for example, a combination permit would cover everything from zoning and wetland issues, plan approval, excavation to building, including electrical, mechanical and plumbing, driveway access, grading erosion control and post-construction storm water management.
The base price for this permit would be $1,000 with a cost of 50 cents per square foot for finished interiors and 25 cents per square foot for non-finished spaces like garages, breezeways, porches and decks, and unfinished basements.
Combined permits for dwelling additions would cost $300 base and 50 cents per square foot.
The fees for altering or remodeling a structure would also change. Exterior improvements such as siding, roofs, and windows and doors when there is no change to the structure would be priced out at a flat rate of $30. Accessory structures such as detached garages, decks, exterior entry stairways would cost 25 cents per square foot with a minimum fee of $30.
Plumbing, electrical and mechanical permits would be based on a flat rate based on the level of work. The more work involved, the higher the permit cost. Package permits would allow homeowners and contractors to hire the expertise needed change water heaters, boilers, furnaces and other mechanical equipment under one permit. For example, if a plumber needs a gas fitter or electrician to install a water heater that would all be covered under the package permit rather than each contractor seeking a permit for the project.
Commercial construction fees will be slightly higher than residential construction.
Under the new fee structure the number of inspections required is included in the permit cost. Re-inspection fees of $60 will be added for each return needed, but city officials are hopeful that an education component in the new permit process will reduce the number of re-inspections needed.
“It appears that this schedule will be at or below our present fee schedule,” Curran said.
For the construction of the 672-square-foot garage in 2008, built at an estimated cost of $24.66 per square foot, the permit fees would see reduced fees, $168 instead of the $178.50 paid in 2008 under the new fee schedule. However, the 784-square foot garage, estimated at $10.20 per square foot to build, would cost more for permit fees — $196 instead of the $102 fee paid in 2010.
“One of the things we’re trying to do here is streamline the (application) process … the methodology for computing the fee for a permit,” Curran said.
The council considers ordinance changes and implementation of the new fee schedule when it meets Oct. 16 after the city’s License and Fees Committee referred it to the council Monday.