Are faster building permits worth fee hike?

Are faster building permits worth fee hike?
Posted at 4:13 PM, May 20, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Developers and business owners in the city could see a sharp permitting fee increase starting next year, but not without the promise of new services and increased efficiency from city administrators.

In a memo released Friday afternoon, City Manager Harry Black detailed a series of recommendations from the Department of Buildings and Inspections. Essentially, the department looked at ways it could continue its efforts to streamline the permitting process in the midst of what Black characterized as a “boom” in development projects throughout the city.

The recommendations are included as part of Black's proposed budget update for next year.

READ MORE: What's new in city's budget for 2017?

Black said the increased services will help the city continue to nurture an 8-percent increase in development permit application over the last two years. The additional services would “build on this success and better meet the needs of those wishing to invest in Cincinnati,” he wrote.

Among the recommendations:

  • Implement a quality control program within the department
  • Restructuring the walk-through process
  • Add new staff positions, including a small business facilitator
  • Add new community investment, safety, blight reduction, and landlord training programs
  • Enhanced technological tools to further decrease application processing time
  • Expanding the code enforcement response team

Black said these recommendations, among others, would come on the heels of a 60-percent decrease in processing time within the department.

And like any other service increase, the city has to cover expenses somehow. Here, it’s in the form of rate increases.

The increases vary widely, from as low as 2 percent to as high as 60 percent or more, depending on the project's cost. Under the proposed fee increases, a $500,000 project would see an increase from about $5,000 in fees to more than $8,000, or roughly 66 percent. Fee rates are set in three tiers: between $50,000 and $100,000, between $100,000 and $500,000, and projects costing more than $500,000.

Any project less than $50,000 would see a flat 2-percent increase. Black said these fee rates still fall below those seen in peer cities.

First, Mayor John Cranley will review and revise Black's proposed budget updates, then he will present it to City council for approval.