Metro Council will decide this week whether to increase building permit and other construction-related fees by 30 percent.
The proposed fee hike, to be considered on third reading, follows a year-long study from a consulting firm that determined Metro hadn’t been collecting a sufficient level of dollars through fees administered to acquire building, plumbing, electrical and other permits.
“When you have an economic downturn, you have less construction, you have fewer permits, and you have less revenues,” Terrence Cobb, director of the codes department, has previously told The City Paper. “That was driving the revenue line down, and drove it down at a faster rate than the decline in expenditures.”
With the fee increase, Nashville’s rates would fall within the range of similarly sized cities such as Charlotte, N.C and Birmingham, Ala.
According to Cobb, Metro’s fees are monitored constantly to ensure dollars are collected in an equitable fashion to carry out services. Though Metro currently finds itself with a fee shortage, he said the department had been over-collecting four years ago.
“From what Mr. Cobb says, if there’s no change in fees, we’ll run about a $2 million deficit for each of the next couple of years unless the economy dramatically turns around,” said Councilman Eric Crafton, who works as a homebuilder. “While I hate to have higher fees on an industry that’s already down, if that’s the cost of providing the services, then we may have to look at an increase.”
Crafton said his support for the increase would come with one caveat. “When the economy turns around then we need to look at rolling the fees back,” he said.
Councilman Jamie Hollin, meanwhile, said he doesn’t know which way he’ll vote on the fee-increase ordinance, but expressed some concerns.
“I hope it doesn’t have a negative impact for businesses wanting to come to Nashville,” Hollin said. “I don’t think we charge that high of fees in the surrounding counties.”