Supervisors approve second fee holiday

Though the Planning Commission did not recommend the action, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 last week to offer a 12-month holiday on some zoning and site plan fees.

At the supervisors Sept. 22 meeting, Planning Director Kirk Turner said the staff recommended waiving the first $4,000 of the rezoning fee for office and industrial uses, excluding cell towers and variable message electronic signs, and waiving the $1,200 base application fee for all site plan applications.

For the rezoning recommendation, “we anticipate that we would lose approximately $7,000 to $10,000 in revenue” based on last year’s activity, Turner said. For the site plan applications, the impact would be in the range of $25,000 to $35,000 of lost revenue.

The business community has expressed interest in having the proposed fee holiday expanded to include rezoning applications for commercial and retail uses, he said.

Including those applications would raise the amount of revenue lost on rezoning applications to $85,000 or $95,000, bringing the total potential cost to about $120,000, Turner said.

The planning department is also recommending removal of the requirement, which was included in the previous fee holiday, that proposals be in line with the comprehensive plan in order to qualify for the fee holiday.

During the public hearing, Mark Tubbs, speaking on behalf of the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce, said the staff’s proposal was fairly consistent with what the business community wants.

“Obviously, we would like to see a provision made for retail and commercial, because we feel those projects are just as valuable as office and industrial projects,” he said. He also suggested that the holiday run for 12 months, not just to the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, 2011.

“I think the system would have worked a lot better if we had not had the caveat that it had to be blended with the comprehensive plan,” said Bob Schrum, president of Flagstop Car Wash. All businesses should be included in the fee holiday, he said.

Supervisors Vice Chairman Jim Holland said he’d listened to his constituents, and they were very supportive of the fee holiday. He supports it, as well, he said, and he wants to see an analysis at the end of the 12-month period that shows the fee holiday’s impact.

Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said she thought retail needed to be included in the holiday.

“I do think we need to take a comprehensive look at this [the county’s zoning fees] to see what we charge compared to our neighbors,” she said.

Clover Hill Supervisor Art Warren said he thought the comments dealing with small businesses were very important “because that is what probably needs the most help right now in our economy,” he said.

“Although I’m torn by the fact there have not been the results we would like to have seen happen in one year, I think we’ve got to give it a longer period of time than one year,” he said. “And I’m not sure two years is enough. … I do think we’ve got to make it simple.”

Board Chairman Dan Gecker said he was “all for jobs in the county,” but he was also for “government keeping its hands off the scale.” He said he didn’t understand why existing retail businesses would encourage the county to make it less expensive for competition to move in.

“I believe strongly that we need to support our existing businesses,” he said. “I don’t see this as doing that. … This is an expensive message we’re sending here with, frankly, no demonstrable result.”

The group ultimately voted 4-1, with Gecker in dissent, to accept the staff’s recommendation with the inclusion of commercial and retail businesses in the fee holiday. The holiday will exclude cell towers and electronic message signs and run for 12 months.  

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