Thursday, October 10, 2002

W. Chester raises permit fees

Costs to be more in line with other communities

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. — To reduce the cost of the planning and zoning department, township officials this week dramatically raised rates for housing and other permits.

Trustee Catherine Stoker proposed the increases, which take effect in 30 days, because about $200,000 from the township's general fund now supports the zoning department's $700,000 budget. The department generates about $500,000 a year.

It is the first time in at least six years the rates have been raised, officials say, and they still are lower than nearby communities such as Mason.

Residential permit fees increased by two-thirds, from $150 to $250. With costs from county building inspections and other expenses, West Chester's total cost for new residential housing is $980. Mason's ranges from $1,000 to $1,300, said Brian Elliff, the township's director of planning and zoning.

Commercial permits for new business signs took the biggest jump, more than quadrupling from $35 to $150. New commercial construction per square foot went from 3 cents to 7 cents, and the cost for printed copies of zoning resolutions jumped from $10 to $25 per copy.

The increases put West Chester more on line with surrounding areas, business operators said Wednesday. For instance, $35 for commercial permits for new business signs is the lowest anywhere in the Tristate, said Bob Schneider, who works at Tristate Signs in West Chester.

“They cost over $100 in Hamilton. In Cincinnati, signs cost $200 and $300; $35 is just too cheap,” Mr. Schneider said. “Do I like it? No. Are we going to have to pass it onto the customer? Yes. But it's been kind of low.”

Ms. Stoker wanted to raise the housing permit fees even higher than $250, but Trustees Dave Tacosik and Jose Alvarez balked.

“These fees are to help defer costs we incur, but nonetheless fees are really another form of a tax,” Mr. Alvarez said.

The fee increases aren't expected to slow growth.

“There's no evidence this will slow anything down,” Mr. Alvarez said. “People move here because they want to live in a certain area that has the right amenities and the right schools. That is a blessing, but certainly it comes at some cost.”

Officials at the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati said Wednesday the increases would be passed on to consumers through higher prices. West Chester is not alone in raising fees, they noted. Hamilton County raised fees last year.

“While we aren't excited about seeing the fee increase, we understand it's more in line with what the other jurisdictions are doing,” said Dan Hendricks, director of governmental affairs.


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