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Lincoln County Director of Planning and Development Onno Hussing advised the board of commissioners a modest fee increase to building permit fees was necessary. After proper notice and public input, the commissioners seemed likely to pass the 5% increase, the first since 2012.

(Photo by Cheri Brubaker)

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At the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on March 29, Onno Husing, director of the planning and development department, reported there has been no increase in building permit fees since 2012.

Those fees are set to increase by approximately five percent on June 21.

“I know it’s been the policy of the board of commissioners… to encourage those of us who have programs that have fees attached, when we raise fees we do so with modest amounts incrementally… so we don’t have sticker shock,” Husing said.

Commissioner Katey Jacobson expressed what she called the difficult spot the county is in.

“We’re short-staffed. There are a record number of people building, as well as 300 homes that burned up in Otis,” she said. “We need to make sure that we are not the barrier to getting people back home.”

Jacobson continued, “I don’t like increasing fees, but I feel like, at this point, it is something we need to consider.”

Commissioner Claire Hall asked for clarification fees were waived for the Echo Mountain Fire survivors. Husing confirmed the proposed fee increase did not affect the Echo Mountain Fire Survivors who are rebuilding.

“I don’t think we’ve ever put it in writing anywhere, but throughout the county, we’ve had an informal policy and understanding that user fees like this simply they won’t be revenue generators beyond the actual cost of providing the service,” Hall said.

“It’s cost recovery, right,” Husing confirmed. A general fund contribution is made to run the department. “Building permit fees do not lead to full cost recovery of our program. We’ve been trying to keep our fees modest.”

Husing expressly noted the board's desire “not to be a barrier, especially to families trying to afford a home.”

There will be required public notice, the issue before the commissioners again on May 24 with adoption anticipated June 21.

“The fact that we haven’t increased fees since 2012 is an indication of the fact that we’ve tried to be prudent in increasing fees and recognize the balance between the need for housing and the need to have a functioning planning department,” Doug Hunt, board chair commented. “These fees are paid by the user, which is positive, versus a broader fee which everyone fees whether or not they are a beneficiary.”

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