In a 2-1 vote, the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners approved changes to fee schedules for building-permit applications, which will increase the permit fees for a single-family home by about 18 percent.
The changes, due to take effect on May 15, adjust the fees currently charged by the county from 2005 valuations to reflect the August 2015 International Code Council valuation data for building-permit pricing.
District 1 Commissioner Robert Rowland cast the sole no vote, objecting to such a large increase on ideological grounds.
District 2 Commissioner Kelly Dore, who voted in favor of the increase, argued that the taxpayers of Elbert County should not subsidize new builds at the expense of other county services.
Building permit fees are based on valuations of the proposed structure, and for the past 10 years, the county has used 2005 values of $85.51 per square foot for a single-family residence to issue permits. The change raises valuations to 2015 rates, $111.53 per square foot.
According to the Craftsman 2015 National Building Cost Manual, the base cost to build a 2,400-square-foot, four-corners (box shaped), single-family residence in the United States ranges from $103.68 per square foot for a “Good Standard” house to $219.65 per square foot for a “Semi-Luxury” house. Regional rates vary and square-foot costs increase as designs become more elaborate.
Independent market data, provided by Andrea Richardson of Stucy Realty Company in Elizabeth, showed that the average market price for a house in Elbert County is $136.23 per square foot.
According to the county's Community and Development Services department, the new schedule will also affect prices for outbuildings and utility structures, dividing them into “shell-only” and “finished” categories.
“Shell-only structures will be lower priced than finished,” CDS director Kyle Fenner said.
For applicants hoping to beat the rate hike, CDS is extending its normal hours during the two weeks leading up to the rate increase. Beginning May 2, the office will remain open until 7 p.m. on its normal days of operation, Monday through Thursday.
County offices are closed on Fridays.
Fenner is also encouraging individuals who have constructed unpermitted buildings on their property to apply for permits. She said that with a new assessor coming to work for CDS, unpermitted buildings will more likely be reported.
“We would like very much to get buildings permitted before they are reported to us,” Fenner said. “If people come on in, we will work through the after-the-fact permitting process together, and there won't be penalties because it hasn't been reported as a violation.”
The fees charged for unpermitted buildings will be the same as for new applications provided no violation is reported.
“Once it becomes a violation, the county has adopted regulations that we are forced to uphold, and we must either enforce a penalty or go through a formal waiver request process with the BOCC,” she said. “That gets complex, and there isn't any guarantee that they can or will waive penalties.”