Fee hikes allow for increased staffing

KINGMAN ­ The Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission approved an amendment to Section 8 (Fees) of the Mohave County Land Division Regulations and an amendment to Section 8 of the Mohave County Zoning Ordinance and Section 6 of Mohave County ordinance No. 98-05 that would increase subdivision fees and create an automation fee at their Wednesday meeting.

According to the agenda backup notes, the Mohave County Office of Management and Budget accomplished a study of "the costs, work volume, staffing and fees related to the land division process conducted by the Planning Division of the Planning and Zoning Department." It was determined in this study that the current fees were insufficient to meet existing staffing requirements with total cost recovery in mind and that the workload for the existing staff was well over achievable capacity.

According to Planning and Zoning staff Director Christine Ballard, the current fees and staff are only able to recoup approximately 35 percent of the money it takes to process the applications, and the existing staff was completely overworked. The proposed fee increases would allow a 150 percent increase in staff, in the form of one extra planner for working on subdivisions and two technicians for working on subdivisions.

Ballard stated that submissions have doubled and the staff is unable to keep up with the influx in a timely fashion. Where before it was taking four to five weeks for a turnaround, it is now taking six to seven.

According to Commissioner Joe Bibich, the contractors that he has spoken to do not care how high the fees are raised if they would be able to get processed more quickly.

The recommended changes according to the agenda backup notes are:

• Application fee (non-refundable): $1,750 each, for preliminary plans and final plats (with the initial submittal of the preliminary plan, and the final plat for each phase, plus the following review and other applicable fees).

• Preliminary plan and final plat review fees: $10 per acre plus $10 per lot/parcel/unit, with each review submittal (minimum review fee of $500)

The planning director shall have the option to waive the review fee after the initial third review based upon a reasonable circumstance or an action out of control of the developer, e.g.: a review initiated by an action of the county; inconsequential minor revisions or corrections to a plat or related reports; lack of timely reception of some outside agency comments or requirements and similar issues that in the opinion of the director do not warrant an additional charged review.

• Master plan review: $3 per acre.

• Amendment to final plat (re-plat): Final plat review fee.

• Amendment to Land Division regulations: $1,000.

• Amendment to preliminary plat after board approval.

• Abandonment of an easement or right-of way: $600.

• Reversion to acreage: $400.

• Concurrent abandonment and reversion to acreage: $800.

• Tentative plat for non-residential subdivision: Preliminary plan review fee.

• Final plat for non-residential subdivisions: Final plat review fee.

• Lot plat: $250 each different lot.

• Type II subdivision: Application fee plus final plat fees.

• Petitions of exception: $350 for each different petition not submitted with the preliminary plat.

• Appeal items: $1,000.

The establishment of an automation fee that will be collected on all permits and applications was proposed to be "$40 dollars to be charged on each permit and 'rezoning or zoning use permit application submitted under' sections 6 of the building code ordinance and 8 of the county zoning ordinance. For permits and applications which cost less than $80, 'a fee of one half the permit or application fee will be charged,'" according to agenda backup notes.

According to Ballard, this fee is to help in the advancement of staff's technology. They have set up a tentative budget in which to account for equipment such as geographic information system, tablets for all of the inspectors to use instead of paper forms that have to then be imputed into a computer and a voice recognition system allowing developers, contractors and engineers to call in and be recognized by the computer for instant information access.

They tentative budget also accounts for training and future updates in systems and software, as well as permits and server capabilities. Ballard said they are mostly basing the technological choices off of systems already in place in Maricopa County. She stated that the systems have been working for years in that county and can be successfully incorporated into Mohave County.

The next step for these amendments is to go in front of the Board of Supervisors meeting.