Building project fees could go up — and down — in Manatee

BRADENTON -- Manatee County commissioners Tuesday considered a plan to raise development review fees an average 94 percent and to drop building fees about 8 percent, effective May 1.

County staff recommended commissioners approve the new fee schedule at an upcoming commission meeting, they said during a workshop at County Center.

Commissioner Larry Bustle wondered whether higher fees would discourage growth. Commissioner Carol Whitmore noted the absence of developers in the audience, saying their silence spoke for itself.

Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities Inc., told The Herald later that higher development review fees will be offset by lower building fees. He said there was “adequate justification” for the fee changes.

The changes were proposed in conjunction with the merger of the planning and building departments in order to achieve efficiencies and save money, county officials said.

A study found that development fees were “significantly short,” by as much as 300 percent, said Deputy Administrator Dan Schlandt during a meeting Monday with The Bradenton Herald Editorial Board.

“We’ve adjusted some of the fees, a 94 percent increase over existing rates in total -- it’s a pretty big number,” he added.

“The key is we believe the development community should pay their own costs without subsidizing from property taxpayers,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told commissioners Tuesday.

County staff members proposed a decrease to building fees after they figured how much a true “cost-for-service” building fee should be, said John Barnott, director of the new department called the Building and Development Services Department.

Their study of development fees produced the opposite result: They discovered that the county had not been charging enough to cover its time.

Under the proposed building fee schedule, for example, costs for a swimming pool would drop from $750 to $425; and a duplicate permit card would drop from $35 to $10, officials said.

Under the proposed development fee schedule, costs for an administrative permit/final site plan standards would increase from $3,041 to $6,000; and a Development of Regional Impact would increase from $13,640 to $20,000, officials said.

The county charges development fees for the review of site-related land development applications, such as a new CVS or Walmart, according to John Osborne, the county’s planning chief. Building fees are charged for permits to do things like plumbing fixes, or to build or remodel homes, for instance, he said.

Both differ from impact fees, one-time charges that are collected when new homes or businesses are built, or when existing homes or businesses are expanded, increasing demand for county services like law enforcement, parks, and roads.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.