By Connie Chang

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, December 4, 2009

The

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

voted Wednesday to defer a decision to increase zoning ordinance fees. The proposal would have increased fees by 30 to 35 percent, fees which have not been adjusted in the past seven years. Several of the Supervisors expressed their hesitations about making a decision at the meeting and felt that more time could help them to better understand the application review process and its associated costs.


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The issue of raising zoning fees has undergone a two year review process and the proposed fee schedule has been through several iterations before it reached the Board on Wednesday. The County’s zoning fees have not undergone a comprehensive review since 1991. In 2002, a fee adjustment was made that implemented a general 25 percent increase, which was considerably lower than the amount required to recover the costs of service.





Jay Willard, member of the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association, comments during public hearing

Supervisor

David Slutzky

(Rio) pointed out that the higher costs within the County can be attributed to a higher standard of review and level of public participation.

“The challenge here is Albemarle County has chosen to have a fairly tough standard before we approve development activities and I think it is driven largely by a desire for quality urban development versus haphazard urban development,” said Slutzky. “For that intention to be implemented, it requires a longer checklist with a lot more particularity. There is a cost associated with carrying out good public purpose.”

Supervisor

Ken Boyd

(Rivanna) questioned why costs are so high in the County to process applications and felt that more time could be devoted to streamlining the review process and finding efficiencies.

“I’m interested in reducing costs in everything we do in government,” said Boyd. “I’m not sure we’ve taken a real hard look at that.”

Slutzky’s opposition to vote on the fee proposal emerged from a realization, he said, that an increase in fees was not a matter of revenue recovery, but of cost allocation in the community. Under the fee proposal, the costs would be split between the applicant and taxpayers, but Slutzky expressed his skepticism over the degree applicants should be shouldering the burden of costs. Because of the public benefit gained from stricter regulations, he felt it was reasonable to place more of the cost burden on taxpayers rather than developers.

Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) noted that Slutzky’s decision to oppose the fee proposal was a “significant disservice to the County, to the people in the County, and to people who will ultimately have to bear the costs.”

While there has also been concern that an increase in application fees in the current economic climate would negatively impact business development in the County, Supervisors and County staff maintain that the proposed fees are comparable to other localities in the region.

Under the proposed fees, a residential preliminary site plan would cost $1,200 plus $15 per dwelling unit. In comparison, Charlottesville charges $1,300 plus $20 per dwelling unit, Fluvanna County charges $1,100 and Greene County $1,000.  Today Albemarle charges $1,190 plus $13 per dwelling unit for a site plan.

With the deferral of the proposal to February 1, 2010, newly elected Supervisors

Duane Snow

and

Rodney Thomas

will have the opportunity to weigh in on the issue and make adjustments to the cost allocation currently being proposed.

Both Supervisors have been critical of any additional burdens being placed on taxpayers and local businesses, but Slutzky cautioned the next Board against “softening up the quality standards for development in the community” in order to reduce costs for the County.



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