Posted 3/28/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Call it a sign of the times. It is getting more and more costly for everyone to provide services in western North Dakota.
And providing services such as building inspections by the City of Watford City is no exception. Which is why the Watford City City Council has decided that the time has finally come to raise the fees that it charges for building permits.
Being able to build in the city, based on a fee schedule from 1997, has become a thing of the past, as the city’s current development demand in conjunction with the time and energy necessary to process and facilitate that development, has necessitated a new plan.
“The old fee schedule wouldn’t have paid for one hour of the time the city is having to dedicate to each building project,” states Curt Moen, Watford City planner. “And the city is spending as much as three to four hours just processing some projects.”
And that only reflects the time city officials have spent on paperwork.
According to Steve Williams, Watford City Code Enforcement officer, from start to finish, many building projects require repeated legwork by either himself or Moen.
“One project in particular required me to come and perform an inspection on the building’s 911 system five times to make sure it was working properly,” states Williams.
Oftentimes, for Williams, the actual legwork entails more than simply showing up at the site.
“I’ve performed around 60 inspections year to date,” says Williams. “Each of these inspections involves paperwork, drive time, time on-site and sometimes coordination with other entities.”
And all of this time by the city employees is costing the city money. Costs that the city council believes the builders should be paying for.
In addition, Moen states that Watford City’s updated fee schedule puts them more in line with its surrounding areas and other parts of the country.
“Lots of builders couldn’t believe how inexpensive our costs were in comparison to where they were from,” Moen states, which is why he and Williams do not believe the new fee schedule will discourage building.
“The city’s fees are now more proportionate to the scope of building projects being done around Watford City,” Williams states.
Previously, a building permit for property valued under $1,000 cost $10, and increased to $25 for anything valued over $1,000 with a $2 increment increase per $1,000.
With the new fee schedule, building permits for property valued under $500 start at a fee of $25. After $500, the fee raises $3 for every $100 increase in property value up to $2,000.
The fees will continue to vary as the cost of the project varies.
Some other increases to note are that the cost to annex property into the city limits has risen from $50 to $500 and the cost of a Conditional Use Permit has risen from $10 to $350, plus the cost of publishing. A Zone District Amendment Application (Zone Change) has risen from $50 to $200.
Williams states that the city hopes to recoup some of the expenditures being created by the oil industry development through this process, and therefore, avoid passing those expenses on to city residents.
“The cost of government is increasing,” Williams states. “Hopefully, this new fee schedule will help keep the cost of government down so that the taxpayer won’t be forced to shoulder the city’s rising costs from development.”
A complete list of Watford City’s new fee schedule is available at the Watford City City Hall.