Discussion on proposed fees to be continued

INDEPENDENCE — A discussion about proposed changes to the community development fee schedule will continue at a future Independence City Council meeting.

City Manager David Clyne presented the information, which was compiled by Zach Pelz, city planner, and included in the Nov. 27 city council packet.

Clyne said Pelz was not able to be at the meeting, but the two met earlier that day.

“This is not up for action tonight,” Clyne said. “We recognize there are some things which need some extra work.”

One item Clyne mentioned is a $225 “home occupation” fee, the definition of which Clyne was unsure.

“We did not have a chance to talk about that this afternoon,” he said. “We will go back and revisit that. I recognize the concern.”

He said what the fees are meant to do is cover the costs of the work that is being performed by city employees.

“The city’s current community development fees do not accurately reflect the city’s cost to review land use applications and construction plans, provide inspection services, and perform other development-related tasks that fall under the purview of the Community Development Division,” Pelz said in his memo to councilors.

Unlike taxes, which pay for broad general benefit, such as police services, fees are specific to an extra effort that is being done, Clyne said.

“To ensure the city can continue to offer community development services in a manner that is funded primarily by new development and to provide greater transparency to the development community with regard to the ultimate cost for a given permit, staff recommends amending the land use review fees and the fee for construction inspections, and adding a fee for the review of construction plans,” Pelz said.

Pelz said staff is recommending new fees for “several tasks that the city currently does not charge for.”

The recommended fees are “based on averages in the area and our history of work in these areas,” Clyne said.

“Why these are before you is a lot of the costs are being absorbed by the city, which means basically by the general public,” Clyne said.

He said he also is not clear on the distinction between the site plan review and the site design review.

“I’m not clear, and Zach wasn’t clear when we spoke earlier, what the distinction is there,” Clyne said. “There certainly is a difference in the price, we want to get that one clarified.”

The proposed fee for a site design review is $2,500 and for a site plan review, $1,500.

“Otherwise I think this is pretty much the format you’re going to see in the recommendation that you’re going to see when we come to you with a formal request,” Clyne said. “In December. We think. I’m doing the best with what I have,” he added with a laugh.

Councilor Kathy Martin-Willis said there had been some lively discussion on local social media about the home occupation fee. A citizen also commented on it at the beginning of the meeting.

“That has been interpreted by many as being a fee for a home business,” Martin-Willis asked. “So, my question is, is that in fact what that is, or is that for the home occupation certificate that is issued on new construction.”

“It’s not the occupancy permit on new construction,” Clyne said. “And I don’t believe it’s intended to be just a permit fee because you’re doing business at home. This is why I’m a tad confused and why we need to have a lengthy conversation in advance, but I think this has to do with, more with where there is a fair amount of work put in by staff, helping people understand whether that occupancy is in fact allowable on that property or not allowable. Are there site requirements?”

Clyne said he does not believe the home occupancy fee “was ever intended to be a business license.”

“If that was the intent, that problem’s going to come off the list and we’re going to have a lengthier conversation later about whether that makes any sense,” Clyne said.

Councilor Marilyn Morton said she received a similar request from the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce earlier that day, asking if the fee was for occupation or occupancy.

She asked the cost to register a business in Independence. That fee is $25.

“So, it seems to me a home business registration fee should not be any more than that,” Morton said.

Clyne agreed.

“Odds are you won’t see that return,” Clyne said. “I just need to find out what it’s about. If it’s anything like that, you probably won’t see this return. If it’s something else, then that’s something we need to explain to you more fully.”

Councilor Tom Takacs said he’d like to see definitions for the fees and how they are going to be applied.

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