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Leland to review $1 fee schedule

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By Brian Slattery

Leland commissioners will review the town’s $1 inspection fee policy at the Jan. 16 town meeting.

Board members approved the drop in fees for in town inspections as part of the 2013-14 budget.

Town Manager David Hollis explained during his budget presentation in May that there wouldn’t be any opportunities for the town to annex property for the foreseeable future and proposed the almost free inspection permits to entice developers to build and request annexation of their property into the town.

When the board approved the permit fee drop, the council said they wanted to bring the issue back for review in six months.

Hollis said six months into the new fee schedule, the town has had an increase in the number of building permits averaged per month in the first two quarters of the fiscal year.

“Whether that’s because of the lower fees (or if building just picked up), we don’t know,” Hollis said.

“Our hope was that some properties outside of town would take advantage of this, but we have not had a whole lot of folks talk about it, whether that is due to the economy, or because they do not know (what they can develop), or know, but are not ready to do anything.”

Hollis said he has received comments from builders and developers saying they appreciate the drop in fees.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, Hollis will present the board members with the number of permits that have come into the town hall, and provide the dollar amounts the permits generated.

He will also present the amounts the town would have received if fees were unchanged and the amount permits would have generated if the fees were lowered to an amount in line with other municipalities or the county.

Leland has approved 216 permits since July 2013.

Hollis said it is an increase of 36 percent from 159 permits in 2012.

“The value of the permits is $51.8 million. That’s a 47 percent increase over the 2012 permit values, $35.3 million,” Hollis said.

Under the new fee schedule, Leland has received $22,000 in revenues from permit fees, about $104 per house.

Under the previous fee schedule the amount received would have been $748,000 or $3,400 per house, Hollis said.

Hollis added that if the town fees had been lowered to around 80 percent of the amount Brunswick County charges, the total would have been around $237,000.

Hollis proposed the $1 permit fee cost as a business generator, but said the town’s building inspection fees were extremely high and needed to be reduced.

“This way we can take the money we received in the past and reinvest it back into the current building cycle.” he added.

Hollis said the staff will review the numbers for the town council, but will go forward based off the officials’ decision.

“I will not make a recommendation unless I’m asked. We will not have a new fee schedule ready. If the council wishes to go back to the old schedule or create a new one, we will need to know their wishes and make that happen,” Hollis said.

“The decision will be up to them, if they want to change it, we will. If they want to let it go another six months, we’ll do that,” Hollis said.

If the fee schedule is revised, Hollis said he doesn’t anticipate returning to the old fee schedule unless specifically requested by the board members.

“Building inspection shouldn’t be a money generator. It should cover the cost of the department. If the council wants to increase the numbers I will try to adjust to cover the cost of the department, nothing more,” Hollis said.

Hollis said the inspections department budget is between $35,000-$400,000.

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