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Price hikes in store for county building permits; cost triples for owner/builder permit, open-space application

Be prepared to pay a bit more for building and land-use permits in some categories beginning Jan. 1.

Among the pending price hikes, approved Dec. 7 by the County Council, perhaps the most notable is a three-fold increase in the cost of owner/builder permits, as well as for an initial plan review required for projects that fall into that "do-it-yourself" type of development.

Previous councils resisted raising owner/builder fees to keep costs more affordable for those who build their own home.

Under the newly-approved fee-schedule, which takes effect Jan. 1, the way in which owner/builder fees are calculated will change as well. The price of a permit will equal .4 percent of the value of a home regardless of size, up to 2,500 square feet; while plan-review prices will be based on .3 percent of value, also regardless of size.

The cost of a conventional building permit, at .7 percent of value, will remain unchanged in the coming year.

Previously, owner/builder fees fell into one of three categories, based on square footage, and were calculated on a sliding scale of .14 to .17 percent of the value of a home, depending on its size.

Even with the fee-hike, owner/builder fees will cost about 36 percent less than conventional fees for a single-family home of equal value, according to Rene Beliveau, director of the Community Development and Planning Department. He said that by changing the equation and raising the fee, the department should come closer to recouping the "full cost" of processing such permits.

Beliveau noted that 22 owner/builder permits were processed over the past 12 months at a collective cost of roughly $16,000 to the department, given the amount of work each entailed. Of those 22 permits, he added that seven were applied for "after the fact."

On the land use side, open-space applications will cost three times as much as they have in the past, from $1,330 to $4,060, beginning Jan. 1. Qualifying land owners can receive a property-tax break under the county's open-space programs. (At $3,150, applications for timber open space will cost slightly less).

CDPD's 2011 fee schedule contains several first-ever charges as well. The fee for a shoreline tree-removal plan review is $105, as is an owner/builder exemption review. Property owners who qualify for a land-use re-designation will pay a $275 fee to cover the cost of incorporating that change into the county's Comprehensive Plan maps.

Most land-use and building fees will remain unchanged in 2011. CDPD anticipates collecting roughly $1.3 million in fees and and charges for service in the coming year.

Of the changes in store, not all are headed up. In fact, permit fees for mooring buoys will drop from $1,100 to $350. However, placement of a mooring buoy is also subject to review and approval by state and federal agencies as well.

For CDPD's 2011 fee schedule, visit www.co.san-juan.wa.us/cdp/cdpdhome.aspx.

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