Fewer building permit requests were filed in the first few weeks of a mandatory county program that calls for fees to cover the cost of inspections in unincorporated areas.

Figures supplied by Allen Ballard, director and chief code official with the county’s building safety department, show there were 43 building permit requests from July 1, when the new program took effect, to Aug. 26, as opposed to 58 for a nearly comparable period in 2004.

The fee requires those building a new structure or adding significantly onto an existing one to pay one percent of total estimated building costs. The fee will pay for inspections to make sure the buildings are in compliance with the county’s Unified Development Code in several different areas. The county previously had no inspection process.

In the month leading up to the change-over, Ballard said 77 permits were issued as builders raced to beat the deadline.

Ballard says response has gone pretty well.

“I haven’t had any complaints at all,” he said. “The people we’ve talked to have accepted it.”

Contractor Mike Allen, owner of Allen and Son of Oak Hill, is not as positive about the fee. He says it is much too high and discourages further growth in the county. Instead of charging a one percent fee, he suggests a charge of, say, .025 percent.

In neighboring Kanawha County, officials recently announced a reduction of their building permit fees for unincorporated areas (capping them at $1,000).

“I think it (the Fayette fee) promotes the image that the county’s not very friendly to growth,” said Allen. While people building in municipal limits “get by on pennies,” Allen says “it’s robbery” for those building in rural areas.

Allen says paying the fee, in addition to the fact that supplies such as OSB are getting more expensive, makes it extremely difficult for contractors to make any headway without passing on the buck to their customers. He said increases will also affect future bank appraisals of homes.

Ballard says he has yet to halt a job because of non-payment of fees, but it will happen. “We will enforce stop work action (if necessary),” he said.

For more information or to request a permit, call Ballard at 574-4320.

County officials are trying to convince municipalities to get in step with the new program. Currently, no inspections are required in city limits, and no municipalities have their own official inspection program. A program such as the county one will eliminate individuals performing unlicensed work, Ballard stresses.

Ballard is slated to discuss the program with the Oak Hill City Council Sept. 15.

Oak Hill City Manager Tom Oxley says there is a “dire need for a building code in Oak Hill and other municipalities,” but that requires code enforcement, which requires a revenue stream. The city’s budget can’t absorb that cost, so the city would consider the county program. “We see no reason why we couldn’t piggyback with the county,” he said.

Oxley said the 1 percent fee might have to be modified before the city goes along.

Currently, Oak Hill’s permit is charged according to square footage, with the minimum fee being $20.

Oxley stressed that new homes and commercial buildings being constructed in the city mainly “adhere to industry standards.”

Fayetteville Town Superintendent Ralph Davis says it doesn’t behoove his town to come on board with the county.

“We haven’t moved in any direction to change or alter our program,” he said recently.

Fayetteville’s fees are based on construction cost and average roughly .025 percent. Like Oxley, Davis says builders are required to follow guidelines and use reputable, bonded contractors. He also said state and county agencies such as the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Fayette County Health Department have inspection procedures.

“It would be extremely expensive (to pay the county’s 1 percent),” Davis said. “We’d rather see people be able to afford to build.”

— E-mail: skeenan@fayettetribune.com

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you