Wood fees low compared to other areas

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Planning Commission’s December meeting agenda will include a discussion of building, demolition and other fees.

Several months ago, commission President Wayne Dunn asked department heads and county officials to look into cost-cutting and revenue-producing measures. John Reed, Wood County building permits and compliance officer, provided the commission a list of the county’s fees in comparison to other areas. The breakdown showed some fees were minimal or non-existent.

Some fees are set by state statute and can only be changed by the Legislature or there are minimum and maximum limits set. In the case of building, demolition and related permits, fees are set by the county.

“I’m not advocating one way or another on the fees. But, from an administrative point of view, it might be nice if they could clean up the flat $10 fees that are so confusing for the public; $10 for a window, or fence, or porch under 20 square feet. If it’s over 20 feet, it’s different. Cleaning that up would help us and help the public keep straight on how much the fees are,” Reed said.

The county commissioners discussed the issue and decided to ask planners to review the fees and come back with a recommendation.

County administrator/planning commission coordinator Marty Seufer said the planning commission’s next meeting will be in December. He consulted with planning commission special counsel Blaine Myers about the procedure for changing fees.

“It is done by ordinance and does not require a public hearing, but because it involves fees, Blaine recommended a public hearing be set. The public hearing would be held before the county commission because they have the ultimate authority to make the decision, the planning commission can only make recommendations,” Seufer said.

The planners would make a recommendation which might include specific new fees.

“Based on other counties, municipalities, we could increase our fees,” Commissioner Blair Couch noted during the commission’s discussions of the fees. He noted one example was the county’s $30 fee charged for three years of demolition at the former Johns Manville property. If that property had been located in the city of Vienna, the fee would have been $13,680.

“We don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a permit, it’s important to report because the information about building, demolition is turned over to the assessor so adjustments in value can be made. Adding new fees onto people is always difficult. I’d like to hear from the builders as well,” Couch said.

A building permit is required for any improvement done to Wood County property. The property owner is the one responsible for getting the building permit here; in the city, it’s the contractor. Currently, Wood County has a flat fee of $10 for estimated construction cost up to $1,000. For each additional $1,000, it’s an additional $1. The fee to locate, place or maintain a single wide mobile home or house trailer is $10. The county has a flat fee of $10 for remodeling, repair or replacement, excluding room additions.

There is a special $10 fee for specific things like gutters, rewiring, or adding a driveway. The $10 fee applies to storage buildings, porches, stoops of patios, canopies, wooden decks, driveways, sidewalks, windows, siding, gutters, soffit, wiring updates, fences, foundation repairs, and permits in the floodplain.

Wood County relies on the homeowners’ estimate for construction cost to base the permit fee.

Kanawha County uses valuation as well, but Reed noted the county requires all the documentation be provided on the building costs, materials and related expenses.