Permitting fees for residential and commercial developments in East Baton Rouge Parish could be adjusted next year should the Metro Council adopt proposed changes from the city-parish’s Department of Development.
Those modifications are tied to other restructuring within the department that involves the city-parish outsourcing permitting, inspections and site review for residential and commercial developments in 2022 — which officials have said will expedite what has historically been sluggish processes.
“This fee proposal has been something the city-parish has been discussing with builders in East Baton Rouge Parish for many years,” said Rachael Lambert, the city-parish’s director of development. “The proposed fees are similar to other nearby jurisdictions, and will also reduce the department’s burden on the General Fund, bringing the department closer to covering the operational costs of the Permitting and Inspection Office.”
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Metro Council will hold a public hearing and possibly vote on the new fee structure Dec. 8.
Thus far, the council hasn’t raised any objections to the department’s intentions to expand the scope of services it outsources to South Central Planning and Development Commission next year.
The move would cost taxpayers an additional $600,000 in 2022 should the Metro Council approve Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s $1 billion-plus proposed budget for next year.
SCPDC is a government entity that handles the site plan review and permitting processes for multiple parishes in the state.
Lambert said there are multiple vacancies in the department’s technical permitting and plan review staff that, coupled with the permitting volume in the parish, prevents them from issuing permits or reviewing site plans quickly.
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Leaders with Home Builders Association of Greater Baton Rouge have already come out in support of the changes underway for the Department of Development, saying the city-parish worked with them to improve the level of service which they say removes layers of “complexity” and frustration for their members.
“This is a positive step forward for builders in East Baton Rouge Parish,” HBA/GBR Board Chair Brandon Ivey said in a statement. “The previous process can be burdensome and lead to frequent and significant delays adding time and money to the building process.”
Karen Zito, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, in a separate statement added said, “Allowing South Central Planning to manage all permits will positively impact timelines and give the parish the fiscal responsibility.”
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With the proposed changes to the fee schedule, Lambert said the city-parish currently charges a $60 flat fee for residential site plan review with building permit fees varying between $3 per $1,000 on projects less than $100,000 and $1,100 plus $1.50 per $1,000 for projects totaling more than $500,000.
On the commercial side, plan review fees are 4 cents per square foot with building permit fees falling within the same range as they do for residential.
The new fee schedule would combine site plan review and permitting fees for residential at 50 cents per square foot. Trade permits for residential developments would cost $125.
With commercial developments, site plan review would be $3 per $1,000 for projects under $500,000 and $1,500 plus 5 cents per $1,000 for ones more than $500,000. When it comes to building permit fees, the range would be $5 per $1,000 for projects less than $100,000 and as much as $2,100 plus $1.50 per $1,000 for projects costing more than $500,000.
“With the new permitting structure and fee proposal the city-parish will essentially get to keep these fees and then compensate SCPDC for access to their plan review staff,” Lambert said. “The proposed changes will allow the department to elevate the level of service in other critical areas with staffing challenges.”