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Willmar to consider increases in building permit fees, plumbing fees

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WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council will pursue an ordinance that would increase building permit fees approximately 11.5 percent and increase plumbing fixture fees from $7 to $20 per fixture.

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The plumbing fee increase would bring the city more in line with the state of Minnesota charge of $25 per fixture, according to Bruce Peterson, city planning and development director.

Adoption of the ordinance requires a public hearing. The increases would go into effect if the council adopts the 1997 Uniform Building Code fee schedule. The city currently uses the 1994 Uniform Building Code fee schedule.

Peterson said city staff was looking for direction as the city prepares the 2015 budget. Any proposed fee increase would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015. He said city staff believes the increase is appropriate given the improving economy and the lapse in time between fee schedule adjustments.

The fee increases were recommended by the council’s Community Development Committee. The recommendation was reported to the council Monday night by Councilman Rick Fagerlie, chairman of the committee.

During the discussion, Councilman Ron Christianson criticized a cost-accounting estimate prepared by Peterson — at the committee’s request — of the time spent by 13 city departments on issuing and administering building permits.

Christianson frequently advocates for making Willmar a less costly place to build and often objects when fee increases are proposed.

“I think this is baloney,’’ said Christianson, a housing contractor. “We have all those people budgeted for every year whether we build a house in Willmar or not. I see the fees as a revenue enhancement tool. We’ll have the discussion at the hearing.’’

Councilman Denis Anderson asked City Attorney Robert Scott if a conflict of interest exists with builders or developers commenting and voting on building permit fees.

Scott said in general there is not a conflict of interest if a council member’s interest is no different than that of any other member of his profession.

“If we were talking about fees unique to a piece of property that a council member had a personal interest in, that would be different,’’ Scott said.

But as far as setting fees that are applicable to an industry, Scott said he did not believe that raises a conflict of interest.

Christianson said he does not make any money off building permit fees and he does not pay for the permits; the customer does. Christianson said he was advocating for people that will build and are going to build in Willmar.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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