Deschutes Building permits may get pricier

Community Development, surveyor’s office say building activity justifies hike

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

Published May 1, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated May 1, 2014 at 06:09AM

Getting a building permit from Deschutes County or planning a new subdivision could get more expensive this summer.

Deschutes County’s Community Development Department is pushing for a 2 percent increase in the fees it charges on most permits, for services such as building inspections, new plumbing systems, demolition permits and electrical work.

And, the county surveyor’s office wants 15 to 25 percent increases on fees to plot out boundaries for new residential neighborhoods.

All told, the heads of eight Deschutes County government departments have asked county commissioners to change fees on a variety of services for the next fiscal year, starting July 1.

County commissioners discussed the fee changes during a work session this week.

A majority of the proposed changes would raise fees by $50 or less, and only figure to affect small groups of people. Deschutes County Justice Court wants to add $20 on the fees for people who don’t appear for a citation hearing, for example.

Even the Community Development changes are small, mostly $1 to $10 increases. Building site evaluation fees would rise from $210 to $215, for instance. The fee to install a range of water-related systems in a home, such as sinks, dishwashers and water heaters, would rise from $25 to $26.

But those costs could add up for property developers and homebuilders, department Director Nick Lelack told commissioners this week.

He said an uptick in building permit activity has the county under pressure to add new staff positions. Lelack also pointed to inflation, which has raised the cost of equipment by 3 percent.

The fee increases would help add two employees and keep up with the department’s daily needs, he said.

“Other (counties) aren’t seeing the permit levels we are,” Lelack said. “And we’re trying to get a number of costs back to full service rates.”

Other fees could go up significantly higher. The surveyor’s office wants to raise minimum fees on a partition plat review from $500 to $625.

Partitions are a common step for large property owners looking to split up a piece of land into smaller lots.

For more complex reviews, as on subdivisions planned for condominiums, the proposal would raise fees from $780 to $900.

The surveyor fees have been frozen since the recession, according to Chris Doty, director of the county’s Road Department, which oversees the surveyor’s office.

“We don’t frequently review fees,” Doty said. “It’s been six or seven years since the surveyor fees were adjusted.”

As Community Development, Doty said the improving real estate market is putting pressure on the surveyor’s office to offer more services.

No decisions have been made yet. The fee increases will be part of each department’s proposed budget, which commissioners and budget committee members will discuss later this month.

Besides Community Development and the surveyor’s office, the county clerk’s office, Information and Mapping Department, Health Services Department, Justice Court, Community Justice Department and legal counsel office requested changes to their fees.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,