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County proposes simplified fee schedule to improve customer service

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By Brian Slattery

Brunswick County staff suggested a simplified building inspection fee schedule for the 2014-15 budget.

The suggested fee schedule, proposed by code administrator Reggie Hucks is intended to ease the process for builders and move more county building and permitting processes online while cutting down planning fees.

The current fee schedule is eight pages long. Huck’s proposed fee schedule is two pages.

A benefit of the proposed fee schedule is that a contractor will only have to write one check for the entire building permit fee. Job estimating will be much easier, as well, because of the simplicity of the fee calculation, Hucks said.

The fee schedule change allows houses that are 2,500 square feet and less to cost the builder the same or less than the current fee schedule to permit.

Hucks said houses 2,500 square feet and less made up about 70 percent of the houses built in the Brunswick County in 2013.

When comparing commercial permit fees, all trades involved in a commercial project are included in the proposed permit fee schedule.

Commercial buildings smaller than 5,000 square feet will also typically pay less under the proposed fee system, Hucks said.

In 2013, eight new commercial building applications were larger than 5,000 square feet; 102 were 5,000 square feet or smaller.

Commercial buildings more than 20,000 square feet could see reduced fee cost, Hucks said.

The proposed fee schedule also includes flat-rate fees for minor work, such as appliance equipment change-outs. Previously the work might have required different permits for plumbing, electrical and/or mechanical aspects. In the proposed fee schedule, all trade permits would be included in one flat fee.

Hucks added that although permits will not carry an additional cost, they are still required by state statute and contractors can be fined for working without the permits.

“They can be issued when the building permit is issued,” he said. “It’s not difficult to do, just important.”

The changes would also eliminate planning fees for zoning compliance and property development, planning director Mike Hargett said.

While all changes of use require a permit, changes that do not involve a modification to the type of business would not be subject to a fee.

Changes of use that include a modification to the type of business would be subject to a change of use fee. Modifications that involve alterations to the site would be subject to a site plan review fee only.

Brunswick County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2014-15 budget, including the proposed permitting fee changes, on June 16 at 6 p.m.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.