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Thread: Zoning/code enforcement: can it pay for itself?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Mtn Woman's avatar
    Dec 2004
    deep in the Hundred Acre Wood

    Zoning/code enforcement: can it pay for itself?

    We have an on-again/off-again debate in the office as to whether a Zoning/Code Enforcement Office should be able to cover its payroll & expenses through application fees and payments from violation judgements.

    What's the general opinion?

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
    Apr 1996
    New Hampshire
    Moderator note:
    Moved to Zoning & Current Planning Forum. Please post website/gallery related issues in the Forum Issues & Gallery Help Forum.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
    Aug 2001
    Capital Region, NY
    Well, I pose this question...what happens when the enforcement becomes effective and the violations are far and few between and as a result do not cover expenses? Do you let that person go and wait until it gets bad enough for it to fund itself again.

    As for covering costs, depends on the size of the community. Small town, no way. Small city, questionable. Mid-sized city, maybe. Big city, possibly. However, the larger the community, the more officers you may need. So can it be a wash? I think so. Should it rely on it? No. Do the police pay for themselves in traffic tickets?
    "A day without sunshine is like, you know, night." --Steve Martin

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Emerald Coast
    I've never been anywhere that it covered its costs. At one place of employment a staff member during a brainstorming session suggested that an additional fee be added to development permits and building permits to cover the cost of anticipated future enforcement. Now I've heard of added fees to cover the costs of General/Comp Plan updates, but enforcement? I'm not going for it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
    Nov 2004
    Where 8 Mile hits Lake M1
    If I remember correctly, our revenues as a percentage of expenses were as follows:

    Electrical Inspections: 110%
    HVAC Inspections: 110%
    Building Inspection 90-100%
    Planning and Zoning: 50-75%

  6. #6
    Maybe I'm back in my little dream world, but wouldn't the best case scenario be so few enforcement actions that the enforcement department would have to actually participate in the planning process?

  7. #7

    May 1997
    Williston, VT
    Our town turned a profit on fees and fines last year, and the year before. It may not in the coming year, as salaries are going up quite a bit. But the fact that this can happen in a rapidly-growing small town should not be taken as a sign that it is the norm, or even that it is desirable. Practically speaking, you don't want a bad year for building to decimate your department. Philosophically speaking, the folks who are protected - as taxpayers and neighbors - need to ante up, too.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    At my last job, in the early 90's, they issued a building permit for a 600 million dollar expansion to a mill. The cost of the building permit was $25. Shows how backwards they think there, plus there was no development levy, plus the city ran the services to it, plus the city bought shares in the company.

    If they charged near what they do today ($8/1000) they would have been laughing and the department would still be being funded from that permit. Oddest part was the council member most against the planning department and always upset about our budget was the mayor at the time the by-law setting a maximum permit of $25 was enacted.

    Current job, we are very close to full cost recovery on application fees. We don't do enforcement from our office, so no idea.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    Our building permits cover the costs for plan review and inspection 90-110%. Our residential building permits are slightly undervalued while the commercial is a little overvalued.

    Our subdivision platting fees generally cover the costs associated with plat review, etc.

    All of the rest of the fees pretty much suck. Oh yeah, and we have a candy-ass muni court judge & prosecuter that don't fine nearly as hard as they should, even if the person is a repeat offender of running a brick & masonry business in a single-family district !

    I'm a big believer in planning being a service to the community, not just the individual applicants. I do not believe that a planning department should be completely self-sufficient.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Apr 2003
    Somewhere between the mountains and the ocean.
    It will never happen...

    Our office is set up in three sub divisions. Community Services, Planning Services and Building Services. Both Maister and I are Zoning and Codes Administrators in the Community Services section, and we bring in almost no money what so ever. What we do get comes from some review fees, but the actual enforcement only costs us money. Even when we write tickets, the money goes to the courts and not the department.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

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