Changes Proposed for County Planning Fees

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department is in the beginning stages of adjusting the administrative fees linked to its services, a process that officials expect will streamline and clarify the charges.

Planning Director BJ Grieve presented the first draft of the changes to the Flathead County Commission on Feb. 10, telling the board that the fee descriptions should be clearer, the amounts should be rounded, and the fee schedule should include policy footnotes.

“People need to know what’s going on,” Grieve said.

The changes were made to reflect the actual cost it takes to administer the applications, Grieve said. He also said the new fee schedule would attempt to separate fees from the more punitive enforcement charges.

Some new charges were added to categories, such as a $300 base fee for the first minor subdivision review, because of the recent adjustment to the Flathead County Subdivision Regulations.

The new version of the subdivision regulations becomes effective on April 1.

With that in mind, Grieve said he would like a similar timetable for implementing the new fees. The changes were presented to the Flathead County Planning Board during its Feb. 9 meeting, Grieve said, and he hopes to present the commissioners with a final version of the changes in about two weeks.

The initial changes include decreases in multiple categories, such as a drop in the fee charged when a privately initiated plan is amended, which used to cost $2,800 plus $28 per acre with a $15,000 cap.

The new fee is $1,000 plus $30 per acre.

Other changes, such as the drop in a lakeshore variance fee, came because the work involved is similar to other processes in the office and should be charged similarly, Grieve said.

A lakeshore variance used to cost $490 for a minor project and $1,400 for a major project. The new fee would be $350 for a minor project and $1,000 for a major project.

There are multiple increases in the proposed changes, with most of them leveled at the Canyon Area Land Use Regulations (CALURS), Grieve said. They would go up because CALURS zoning fees should be similar to the fees from other zoning districts.

“The fees were significantly lower and, if anything, it costs more for us to drive up there and back,” Grieve told the commission.

Grieve also said the difference between a publicly and privately initiated plan should be made clearer. He suggested that for anything to be considered a publicly initiated plan, for which there are no administrative fees, a suggested plan should go through the planning board and on to the commissioners for declaration.

Grieve said he expects to get a revised version of the fee schedule to the commissioners within two weeks, and plans on putting a resolution in front of them for a decision two weeks after that. The effective date would be April 1, he said.

For more information or to view the draft changes, visit http://flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning/Drafts.php.

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