County OKs hike in building fees

Move meant to speed up Grand Valley construction

Christopher Montano of Clifton digs trenches for the plumbing and infrastructure that will be installed below the concrete foundation for a new home in the 2400 block of Tiptop Avenue. Montano is an employee of Cowboyz Construction. The house behind him is also under construction

Construction workers with Molnar Construction lay decking along the rooftop of a house under construction in the 2600 block of F 1/2 Road on Monday.

It will cost 27 percent more to permit construction of a new building during the second half of 2017 under a plan approved Monday by the Mesa County Commission, a development that left builders and conservative politicians alike remarking on the peculiarity of industry seeking a rate increase.

The commission voted to increase fees charged by the building department — which provides services to the county and five municipalities — for the first time since 1988.

“It’s pretty crazy to think I’m here asking you to take more money from our operation,” developer Ron Abeloe told the commission about the proposed increase.

Commissioner John Justman, meanwhile, called the move “only rational” in that it could make it possible to hire more inspectors and other personnel who are needed to more efficiently deal with construction issues.

The county’s building department, like other arms of the county government, was cut in 2010 as the local economy slowed. It’s grown back only slightly. The 18 positions in the building department were halved then and one employee has been added since, bringing the staff to 10.

Like other county departments, the building department had to absorb a 5 percent reduction in its 2017 budget as the county worked to increase public-safety spending.

A yet-to-be-unveiled ballot measure that would increase the county’s sales tax could take some of the pressure off other county departments, Commissioner Scott McInnis noted.

Support from industry made it possible to support fee increases, Commissioner Rose Pugliese said, adding that she believed greater use of technology could he helpful.

The beginnings of an upswing in construction have begun to pressure the department and developers are feeling the difference on the bottom line, industry representatives said.

Permits that once were issued in three days now take three weeks, Abeloe said.

“Delays drive up costs,” he said.

If a county doesn’t have an efficient, responsive building department, “it’s like a sign that says you’re not open for business,” said Brad Keller of the Western Colorado Contractors Association.

County officials sought to increase costs after a review showed the county hadn’t raised its fees since 1988, said Pete Baier, deputy administrator for operations. Officials began discussing the increases in November after meeting with home builders and contractors associations.

Comparing Mesa County’s fees with those of surrounding counties showed that Mesa County had the lowest permit fees in western Colorado, slightly more than half of those of neighboring Delta County.

What officials said was a good benchmark house — 1,600 square feet with a 600-square-foot garage — would cost $687 to permit in Mesa County, $1,287 in Delta County.

Raising the fee by 27 percent, to $872, would leave Mesa County’s rates still below Delta, Garfield and Montrose counties, and slightly above the $843 rate for a comparable house in Pueblo County.

The changes approved by the commission bring the fee schedule into line with the Uniform Building Code, Baier said, noting that “Some fees will go up, some will stay the same, but the key is we will be using the industry standard to set the fee.”

The new fee schedule remains to be approved by Collbran, De Beque, Fruita, Grand Junction and Palisade before it goes go into effect because the county’s building department provides their building services.

Once those new fees go into effect, they could result into $300,000, possibly $400,000 in new revenues, Baier said.

Whether the county will plow the new money into the building department will be determined in the budget process, he said.


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