The Dalles City Council will again review proposed increases and changes in police, building department and utility hookup fees at its Monday, May 13 council meeting.
The changes were proposed for the police and planning departments, and a change in how utility connections are billed was proposed for public works. The proposals were presented to the council March 25.
The annual cost of burglary and robbery alarm permits issued by The Dalles Police Department would rise from $5 to $20. The fee increase is based on charges imposed by other law enforcement agencies, according to the staff report prepared by City Attorney Gene Parker.
A fixed fee of $2,110 for new water connections and $1,903 for new sewer connections was also proposed. Current fees are based on estimates generated by staff for each connection; the proposed fixed fee is based on an average cost to the city and would eliminate the need to generate cost estimates. The fixed fee would speed up the process, reduce staff time and paperwork, increase efficiency and give more certainty to developers, Parker said.
The Community Planning Department also proposed revising all current fees and establishing new ones.
The proposed fee schedule lists 35 permit fees, eight document fees and 14 administrative fees.
In addition to fee increases, the proposal would change how applications requiring site plan review, with visits by city staff, are paid for. As it stands now, if a developer chooses not to pursue a project after a site visit has been made, the city is not recompensed for the staff time expended on the proposal, said Parker. The new system would require a 50 percent down payment.
Twelve permitting actions require a site visit, listed here with old and new fees: Comprehensive plan amendment, $450 to $590; comprehensive plan/zone change, $775 to $1,015; conditional use permit, $420 to $550; major partition, $380 to $500; minor partition, $250 to $330; mobile home park, $450 to $590; planned unit development, $480 to $630; site plan review, $335 to $440; subdivision, $480 to $630; street vacation, $380 to $500; variance, $380 to $500, and zone change, $450 to $570.
The proposal also calls for a new $1,000 fee for “exclusive use agreements” entered into with developers, for which there is no current charge. The documents require both legal and planning staff time to prepare and the fee was based on an estimate of the time needed to prepare the documents.
“Some of these increases are in the range of 30 percent, and there are not any reasons given,” said Councilor Rod Runyon, who with Councilor Russ Brown asked for clarification as to what fees were or were not being raised.
“There are generic reasons, but no specifics,” Runyon said of the increases. “It would be nice to have some history of these,” he added, asking when the city had last revised the fees.
Planning Director Steve Harris said that the planning department fees were last increased in 2005. In developing the fee proposals, Harris said he started with the consumer price index increase for the area, which showed about a 33 percent increase since 2005. “I used that as a base, and took a look at our fees and processes,” he said, to come up with an actual cost estimate and a justifiable increase if one was needed.
He added that although he looked at cities of similar size in comparison, he did not base the fee increases on that information because every city has different overhead costs and fee structures.
Harris said creating a new site team review application fee of 50 percent would save the city a lot of staff time. “We have had a lot of applications come through, be submitted, and go through a site team and development review committee,” he explained. “The applicant would then come to the meeting, see what conditions or requirements would be placed on their project, and you would never see them again. So there would be dozens of hours of staff time left on the table.”
Requiring half the permit fee as a down payment at the time the application was submitted would reduce those wasted hours, he said. “We thought the down payment would be an incentive, and cover some of that cost, and if the developer came back with a formal application within six months they would receive that 50 percent payment as a credit to the permit application fee.”
Councilor Timothy McGlothlin, who was seated as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Rich Mays, said he felt public input was important for any tax or fee increase. “Have contractors been contacted on these? Have we had any negative feedback from contractors or builders on these increases?” he asked. “These fees have to be justified, always.”
Harris said out-of-area contractors have said they can’t believe the city’s fees are as low as they are.
Brown said fees not being raised since 2005 was ample justification of the increases. “Nobody wants to pay more,” added Councilor Linda Miller. “But since 2005? That sounds like justification.”
McGlothlin agreed, but pointed out he didn’t know that from the written staff report.
“I would really like to know what inside-the-area contractors think of these fees,” Runyon said. “It’s a 30 percent increase. Is that good, bad, do they have a problem with that? That’s where I would like to see a little more information. I think we should take public comment tonight, but I’m for laying this over to another meeting for a vote, giving the public a little more time to have input.”
After taking public testimony, in which the only individual to speak said given the new information presented they would appreciate having additional time for public input, the council voted unanimously to postpone a decision on the resolution, until the May 13 regular meeting.