Snow calls on County to halt zoning fee increases

By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Duane Snow

, a candidate for the Samuel Miller seat on the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

, is calling for the

Planning Commission

to end its discussion of

raising a variety of zoning fees

, including those on home businesses.

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) holds a press conference on zoning fees at the home of Kirbie & Nelson Moore

“Here we are in the worst economy that I have ever been a part of, and to take someone with an idea to start a new business, and then raise the fee [from $440 to $4,500], I find that truly amazing,” said Snow on Friday.

Snow was referring to one of a number of fee increases which will be considered by the planning commission at a November 10th public hearing.  The Home Occupation – Class B one-time fee is currently $440 which covers a home business with no more than 2 employees, other than family living in the residence.

The Class B fee has been proposed for an increase to a maximum of $4,500.  The Class A Home Occupation permit, is proposed to increase from $13 to $25.

The County’s Chief of Current Development, Bill Fritz, confirmed in an interview these particular fee increases and said the planning commission directed that fees be advertised that recovered 75% of the costs incurred by the county.

“Staff’s recommendation was $2,000 for Class B,” said Fritz. “Class A has an administrative process and they can sometimes be done while the person is standing there in the office, no more than a day or two at the most.”

“Class B is a special use permit just like any other special use permit,” said Fritz.  “The process does add to the cost, and the County’s fee study tried to capture all those costs.”

Planning Commission Chairman

Eric Strucko

(Samuel Miller) said it was appropriate for the county to review its fee structure and associated costs for reviewing zoning applications and special use permits.

“The amount advertised for public hearing becomes the absolute ceiling and we purposely make it high so there is some leeway in the deliberative process,” said Strucko in an interview.  “We will most likely bring them down, as some of these increases are very significant.”

County staff assessed the fees charged in other localities and made recommendations based on recovering a portion of the actual costs for the work involved.


Linda Porterfield

(Scottsville) said she believes in “100% cost recovery” if reasonable costs have been calculated up front.  “We shouldn’t inflate a fee just to pay for something else,” said Porterfield in an interview.

“I think that the fees should be set reasonably, but the person getting the opportunity should be paying the price,” said Porterfield.  “I don’t think my neighbor should pay for me to do something, thus subsidizing it.”

Other proposed fee increases caught the attention of

Valerie Long

, an attorney who represents a number of local developers and other business owners.

“Rezonings applications are a good example,” said Long.  “Right now a planned development of 50 acres or less costs $1,020.  Under this proposal it would increase to $13,500, a 1,220% increase.”

Asked about the County’s effort to recover its costs of doing business, Long recommended the county strike a fair balance with developers and streamline the way it does business.

“The costs are driven in large part by the complexity of the regulations and the scope of review that the county chooses to undertake,” said Long.  “The level of review is premised on protection of the public interest.  If we want quality development in the growth areas, the community should help cover the costs.”

Snow announced today that, if elected, he would not support any increases in the zoning fees.

“I think right now what we need more than anything is an economic development plan with measurable goals, and by doing something such as that we will be able to increase the vitality of our economic condition,” said Snow.


John Lowry

is also running for the Samuel Miller seat on the board.  Lowry chairs the economic development authority and in July he called for the county to create an economic development office that would generate more tax revenues.

Lowry said he would want to review the planning commission’s final recommendations, and that he thought the cost recovery approach made sense.

“These are not fee increases to raise revenues for the county, they are simply more reflective of what these costs are for what the county provides,” said Lowry.  “It is impractical to think you can close the door on fee increases.  You have to have an open mind on what reality dictates.”


Madison Cummings

is the third candidate in the three-way race which will be decided in Tuesday’s election.  Cummings could not be reached for comment.