Sunday, November 8, 2009

Proposed Increases in Albemarle County Zoning Fees

This coming Tuesday (November 10), the Albemarle County Planning Commission is holding a public hearing at which Commissioners will listen to feedback on the proposed increases in County zoning fees.

The zoning fees cover a range of applications and reviews, including zoning map amendments, applications for approval from the Architectural Review Board, and certain special use permits.

The fees have not been systematically revised since 1991. They are now significantly lower than analogous fees in other localities, and according to a County report issued this summer, the current fees do not re-coup the expense of staff time necessary to review the various applications.

The proposed fee increases have generated arguments -- in support and in opposition.

Opponents claim that the large increases (some fees would increase by a factor of 10) could stifle economic development just when the County needs it most. Supporters retort that the revised fee schedule simply puts the burden of zoning expenses on the individuals and companies who actually use them -- rather than spreading the expense among all taxpayers.

Brandon Shulleeta summarizes the zoning fee debate in this morning's Progress (here). As Shulleeta reports, Supervisors-elect Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas have both expressed skepticism about the proposed increases, so it will be interesting to see whether the current Board delays action on the Planning Commission's recommendations.

One of the fee increases would be for an "Official Determination of Development Rights."

We have many clients who request an Official Determination of Development Rights, either in connection with contemplated conservation easements or when evaluating the terms of a real estate purchase. Currently, such a Determination costs $40, and we have long told clients that this is one of the best bargains in the world -- in light of the hours and hours that County staff spend poring over and analyzing deeds, plats and other records in order to determine the number of development rights that attach to a particular parcel. The proposed new fee for a Determination -- $750 -- would account for some of those hours of staff time.