Island County permit fees raised over protests

In the new year it will cost significantly more to get a building permit, a shoreline development permit, a short plat, a long plat, a clearing and grading permit, or a number of other permits administered by Island County.

The three county commissioners unanimously approved amendments to the fee schedules for building permits and land-use permits at their Monday morning meeting. Building permits fees were increased by 10 percent, including a 3-percent technology fee; the cost for land-use permits were increased by a specific amount for each type, plus a 3 percent technology fee on top of that.

The planning department fee for a short plat preliminary application, for example, will go from $1,000 plus $75 per lot to a flat $1,910. The fee for a type 2 variance will increase from $325 to $858.

Some of the fees that the public works department charges for processing permits were also increased for the first time in 10 years. The public works fee for a clearing and grading permit, for example, rose from $200 to $300.

It was a second time this year that commissioners increased planning department fees, which was a point not lost on the half dozen people who spoke in polite protest.

“It is unprecedented in this region ... to have double increases in the same year,” said Jason Easton, director of the North Puget Sound Association of Realtors.

A number of people warned that increasing the cost of development could harm the fragile recovery of the housing market in the county.

“We’re concerned that these fees will price potential customers out of the home market,” said Cory Ertel, director of governmental affairs for Skagit / Island Counties Builders Association.

Still, some of the speakers said they were sympathetic to the county’s budget problems. A number of them asked the commissioners to limit the building permit increase to 7 percent plus the 3-percent technology fee; the commissioners agreed.

Planning Director Bob Pederson explained that the purpose for the fee hikes is to move closer to recovering the county’s cost for processing permits, to keep up with inflation in the years the fees stagnated, and to maintain or improve the time it takes to process applications. Also, a 3-percent technology fee will allow the planning department to purchase permit tracking software, which will increase efficiency and allow people to see where their applications are within the process.

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