P&Z director works on reasonable fees, doing more with less

Published 7:23 pm Friday, March 29, 2019

Editor’s note: This is the seventh story in a series focused on agency funding requests made to the City of Danville for fiscal year 2019-20.

Director Steve Hunter said Danville-Boyle County Planning & Zoning has not asked for an increase in funding since fiscal year 2015, and this year is no different. Planning & Zoning is asking the City of Danville for the same amount it was funded for the last three years — $75,000.

Hunter said he realizes P&Z is “not a high priority when you talk to most citizens,” but he wanted to show why it was worth the investment. Since coming on board more than two years ago, Hunter has worked to make several changes, with help from the board, and said he’s continuing that.

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Hunter said anticipated revenue from site plan applications will drop significantly. The agency has changed the square-footage threshold at which it requires site plans to be submitted.

Steve Hunter, director of Danville-Boyle County Planning & Zoning, explained to the Danville City Commission how the agency has been able to do less with more. Photo by Bobbie Curd.

“We feel it’s a fairly big burden to ask everyone to submit a full set of engineered plans for every single build we do in his community,” Hunter said. “We’re bumping it up for commercial and industrial, but the things that fall below that go straight to a building permit.”

The revenue from site plan applications is expected to dip from $32,000 to $20,000 or lower.

Hunter said the agency will also be “getting out of the zoning permit business on residential and agricultural” properties because it feels it is “counter-intuitive to charge these large permit fees.” Some of them exceed $400 a pop, he said, which “seems overburdensome to pay us that, then turn around and pay the building inspector $400.” He said P&Z doesn’t provide much of a service for this, and due to an amendment to the zoning ordinance, that will change as of May.

The change in zoning permits drops revenue by about $12,000, he said. But P&Z is sticking with them for commercial and multi-family projects. The fee for the rickhouses, Hunter gave as an example, is $4,000 a pop. “It’s still a burden on the community … we also want to see businesses come to town.”

The zoning permit fee is 20 cents per square foot, which means a retail store wanting a 100,000-square-foot building will pay $20,000 for its permit fee. “For what? We do the job, but we do the same job for 10,000 square feet,” Hunter said, adding that high of a permit fee is something that most communities don’t do. “I see the benefit of not charging those fees on a single family … but I also see it on the commercial side. We did not phase those out in the zoning ordinance rewrite yet.”

Mayor Mike Perros said, “I would encourage you to move on that post-haste. P&Z does represent the community, so have that conversation — get us as competitive as we need to be.”

Hunter said they decided not to do it right away, since the other fees were being adjusted, because he didn’t want to be forced to ask for more funding.