Building fee nears adoption |

Building fee nears adoption

Industry opposes new exaction on cost of construction in the city

Brandon Gee
Roberto Garcia, of Fox Construction, works on a new commercial building in downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon. A proposal moving through the city would institute a new building permit fee for all construction within city limits.
John F. Russell

By the numbers

2,500-square-foot single-family 40,000-square-foot commercial

New proposed city fee $1,100 $6,520.40

Total proposed building fees $7,356.53 $288,135.68

Source: City of Steamboat Springs

— Following a public outreach process that was absent when the city first contemplated a new building permit fee, changes have been made to the proposal that will go before the Steamboat Springs City Council for approval next week.

The new fee will add thousands of dollars to the cost of most construction within city limits. The Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association opposes the fee, but president John Shively, of Shively Construction, said it’s probably not worth fighting.

“I don’t know if it’s really up for discussion. The majority of City Council seems to be in favor of it,” said Shively, who said the new fee would give people another reason not to build in Steamboat during a global economic downturn. “It’s unfortunate that the city needs to increase the fees. : It just makes it more expensive to build within the city limits of Steamboat Springs. It’s just another brick in the wall. It’s just another expense we have to pass on.”

Shively contends that the city already exacts enough from builders in the form of its building use tax and excise tax.

Although Steamboat contracts for building department services with the Routt County Regional Building Department, city employees still participate in the review process and sign off on permits. Officials say the city needs a fee to recoup its own costs.

“The city has never had any fees, yet we’ve done this work for decades,” interim City Manager Wendy DuBord said at a City Council meeting last month.

“It is designed to be cost recovery,” Public Works Director Philo Shelton said Monday at the second of two public meetings to discuss the proposed fee. “We’re not trying to make money.”

The city fee would be collected on top of county building permit fees for projects within city limits. Creation of the fee was a sticking point in negotiations between the city and county when the two bodies renegotiated their intergovernmental agreement earlier this year.

For new commercial construction, the proposed fee would cost $1 for every $1,000 of a project’s estimated construction valuation. For other types of construction, a flat per-permit fee would be charged. For example, the fees for a single-family residence and interior alterations would cost $1,100 and $195, respectively, regardless of a project’s size or cost. Last month, when the building-permit fee ordinance was up for its first reading with City Council, the proposal was to charge $3.40 for every $1,000 of estimated construction valuation regardless of the project type.

Tom Leeson, the city’s director of planning and community development, said the city has made some changes to the proposal after meeting with the trades association and other interested parties. The biggest change is an exemption for construction projects valued at $350,000 and less. Some builders had pushed for a fee based on square footage, rather than cost, arguing that projects of the same size take the same amount of effort to review, regardless of their cost.

“Our answer to that is the higher-value projects do take longer principally because they take longer to construct,” said Leeson, who said he was unable to find any other Colorado community that bases its building permit fees on square footage.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail

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