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Board of Adjustment considers a fee change

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

After more than a year of discussion and drafting, the Board of Adjustment continues to move forward with a request to change its fees.

Board Member Bryan King read his proposal for a change to the fees charged for interpretation cases at the board’s meeting on Feb. 13. Interpretation cases are opened when someone believes that city staff has made an error in the application of city code. Given the facts that there are a small number of interpretation cases each year and a supermajority of the board must approve interpretation cases, King warned that the risk of disenfranchising the public was greater than abuse of the system, and recommended that the general fees be eliminated.

Under his proposal, notification fees would remain intact, but if the applicant prevailed, the notification fee would be refunded under the general reasoning that no one should pay to have the city correct a mistake.

“Before, if a citizen or citizen group wanted to do that, they had to come up with three- or four-hundred dollars,” said King. “Now, on personal experience … my neighborhood had to pony up $2,200 to get a code interpretation. And it’s gone up from that.”

Currently, Board of Adjustment fees are $2,375.36 for residential zoning and $2,320.24 for all other zoning. Notification fees are $582. Typically, the board hears five to eight interpretation cases a year.

Board Member Eric Goff said that he understood that the purpose of the fees was to recover the costs associated with staff time in cases. In that context, he said, there should be a high bar set for waiving fees. However, he did agree with returning the full fee if the appellant was successful. He also shared a concern that not having a high bar of entry for interpretations could result in an increase in the cases, which are often time-consuming and complicated.

“Maybe it didn’t happen in the past as much, but we’re all aware that there’s a lot of tension in the city, and it’s growing,” said Goff. “I would hate for us to have seven-day meetings.”

In the end, board members opted to postpone approving a draft of a letter to the city manager requesting a change in the fee schedule as part of the budget process. The extra time will allow the board to articulate whom the fee reductions would apply to and what the fees should be, which remained a bit hazy at the February meeting.

Photo by John Flynn.

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