Council mulling permit fee hike

GREENFIELD — Building a new home or addition could become more costly in 2016 if city officials approve an estimated 50 percent increase in building permit fees.

This week, the Greenfield City Council gave the initial OK to hike fees for building permits, which are required for new construction in city limits.

That means building a deck, adding a sun room or building a new home could become more expensive.

The city hasn’t seen an increase in its permit fees in a decade, and they’ve fallen below what other cities and counties charge, said planning director Joanie Fitzwater.

She’s proposed the fee for a new single-story, single-family home increase to $250 from $165. In the county, similar construction costs a minimum of $300.

If the new fees are approved, building a deck or porch will cost $45 for the building permit compared to the $30 it costs now. The fee for building an addition to a home will increase $30, from $60 to $90, for permit fees.

Fitzwater said the department tried to strike a balance when setting new fees to ensure the city stays competitive to attract new construction while also ensuring it’s collecting as much as it should.

Avon, for example, charges $150 for a single-family home plus 10 cents per square foot. So building a 2,000-square-foot home would cost about $350 in permit fees.

In Bedford, similar construction costs $250 in permit fees. Both communities are smaller than Greenfield but have similar fee policies to the city, Fitzwater said.

In Shelbyville, which has a population more comparable to Greenfield, a permit for new construction on a 2,000-square-foot home costs $240.

Money collected from the permits in Greenfield is put in the city’s general fund to pay for operating expenses, including those in the planning department, said clerk-treasurer Larry Breese.

So far in 2015, building permits have generated about $38,000. In 2014, the permits generated about $87,500.

The dollars collected through the fees aren’t nearly enough cover the planning department’s budget, which was $267,600 for 2015, said Fitzwater.

“We can’t make our fees match what it costs to run this department. It’s not feasible to do that,” Fitzwater said. “But we can be a little more competitive.”

Mayor Chuck Fewell echoed Fitzwater’s sentiments, saying the city doesn’t charge fees for building permits as a way to generate extra revenue. But the fees help recoup the costs of ensuring construction is in line with code.

“They’re still getting a bargain,” he said. “People know if they are going to put up a fence or a sign, they need to have a permit to do that. It’s not unreasonable.”

An ordinance to increase the fees was passed unanimously on its first reading with no discussion at this week’s city council meeting. It will need to be approved once more next month before taking effect in 2016.

Increased fees?

The city of Greenfield has taken the first steps to increase building permit and sign fees for the first time in 10 years.

To view the proposed fees, visit greenfieldin.org/government/city-council. A PDF of the ordinance is available for viewing under the Nov. 18 meeting notes.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.