Councilreviews fees

Published on Thu, May 18, 2006
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Council reviews fees

City council members are reviewing the completed unified fee schedule for the city, intended to give staff and citizens and businesses one place to go to find out the cost of any city service.

“Right now it can appear in 100 different places,” said city manager Gary Tomsic at the May 8 city council meeting. “Not only is it confusing for the citizens it’s confusing for us to remember where they all are.”

Until 2004, council-approved charges for all city fees – including photocopies, development permits, utility charges or the reservation of a picnic shelter at Blaine Marine Park – were listed under the sections of Blaine’s extensive municipal code with regulations for those areas. The 2004 first draft of the unified fee schedule collected all development related fees into one document, and the current fee schedule gets the rest of the job done.

“We’re trying to get all the fees into this one document,” said Blaine finance director Meredith Riley. Administrative fees, the cost of appealing a decision by city staff or council, business licenses, rental of city facilities, utility rates and airport fees are now also included in the fee schedule.

The current review also allowed city staff to increase some rates, and it was those rate increases that led council members to ask for more review time. The fee schedule will be before them for council action on May 22. “If we’re coming up with new fees and changing them I don’t feel comfortable without more study,” said council member Bruce Wolf.

Most of the areas where increases are proposed are related to new development. Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said many of these fees had intentionally been set low to encourage growth, but in today’s building boom they weren’t covering costs. “Now we’re seeing explosive growth and the increase in cost is dramatic,” he said. “Here we’re increasing our fees but they’re still in the center countywide and they still do not cover our costs. We are sensitive to the fact this does increase the cost of development.”

Review and approval of a binding site plan for a new development will almost double, from $600 to $1,000 for a general plan. Subdivision costs will also rise, the base rate going from $800 to $1,500, with an additional $50 per lot cost. Developers will also have to pay an additional $200 for every additional technical review committee meeting after the initial one.

Tomsic directed council to pay special attention to impact fees, specifically the parks impact fee, which is increasing from $300 to $750.
The purpose of the fee is for new development to provide the funding for the capital improvements listed in the parks plan as needed to serve a growing population’s recreational needs