Charlottesville considering changes to fee structure for building permits

Later this month, the city of Charlottesville will begin to use new software to track various land use applications processed by the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services. They’ll begin with building permits, but will need to adjust the price of various fees according to building official Charles Miller. 

“One thing that we found out on this new software is that the calculations can’t handle the old way that we did the fees so it had to be done, we had to redo it,” Miller said. 

The fee schedule has not been updated in Charlottesville since 2008. Miller said the current process relies on confusing mechanisms to calculate the cost for developers and landowners. He’s seeking to simplify the system as best he can while finding consistency. 

“We have three permit techs out front,” Miller said. “If I walk up there with a permit, the chances are I’m going to get three different answers and that’s just not acceptable.” 

Miller said state code allows localities to charge fees that are high enough to cover the full cost of paying people to process the applications, but that the city is “nowhere near” that level. He said one of his goals is to change that when the new system goes into place on April 30. 

Miller has only been in the job since last August and joined city government at a time when NDS was struggling to process permits. 

“When I got here back in August, our review time was horrible,” Miller said. “It was 80 days plus. And right now we’re down to roughly about two weeks.” 

The only speaker at the public hearing was John Sales, the executive director of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

“This caught me kind of as a surprise,” Sales said. “I don’t know the impact this will have on low-income housing projects that are under development or that are being proposed because fees take a decent amount of our budget. We’re looking at very small margins and so I hope there’s some legislation or resolution later on down the road that addresses that concern.” 

This item will come back to Council on April 17 as part of their consent agenda. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 10, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

A partial list of the new building fee schedule (view the entire list) (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

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