Manatee County Commission raises development fees an average of 22 percent

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 22, 2014 

MANATEE -- As of June 1, Manatee County development review fees will go up an average of 22 percent under the terms of a new fee schedule.

The fees help to recoup the costs of processing development applications and enforcing the Land Development Code, which governs all development and use of land in unincorporated Manatee County.

"Its purpose is to make sure development fees pay for development," John Barnott, director of the Building and Development Services Department, said about the new fee schedule Wednesday.

The county based its new fees on an exhaustive study done by the consulting firm Maximus, which took into account the department's revenues and costs, said Barnott.

"They tell us where we're supposed to be," he said of the study's conclusions.

A prominent builder said he hoped that higher fees might mean more streamlined service.

"Government costs are about 12 percent of the cost of our $160,000 family homes," said Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities. "Though we respect these may be the costs of government ... we wish that Manatee could streamline the process in the way that private interests have done since 2005."

Last month, Barnott sought out a planning task force, with members represent

ing engineering, land development and construction firms, before asking the Manatee County Commission's permission to institute the new fees.

The commission approved the new fees Tuesday.

Among the changes are advertising appeals, which went up from $700 to $1,000 for applications requiring one public hearing, and from $1,400 to $2,000 for two public hearings.

An annual report review for a Development of Regional Impact will go up from $1,500 to $3,000; and public infrastructure inspection fees will go up from $51 to $100 per hour, according to a comparison of the current schedule and the newly-approved one.

Building fees, however, have dropped 16 percent over the past two years, Barnott said.

"I agree with some of what the commissioners said (that) we need a study to really look at what the fees are," said Mary Dougherty-Slapp, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange Inc., representing 400 members.

"Manatee County provides very good service, and we want to maintain those levels of service, but the economy is still a bit uncertain," she said.

She added that, with effects from the recession still somewhat in evidence, perhaps it's a little too soon.

"My gut reaction has me asking, 'Is this the time to do this?' " she said.

Alan Anderson, executive vice president for the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, with a membership of about 300, said he is not hearing much about it.

"For the developers, I'm not hearing a lot of push-back on this," Anderson said. "I've been involved in preliminary discussions (on the fee schedule), and to the best of my knowledge, they are basically OK with some of these changes."

Post-recession, a steady stream of projects has been making its way through the county's Building and Development Services Department office, Barnott said.

He is hoping to hire more inspectors, but is having trouble finding qualified people who possess the proper credentials, he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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