WASHINGTON, November 5, 2013 — Montgomery County will soon be lowering the prices of some building permits, after County Executive Ike Leggett agreed to do so in order to facilitate business investment in the area. Previously, the fees were approximately triple the cost of similar permit fees from neighboring regions, including Alexandria, VA.
The reduction in fees was sought by Woodfield Investments, who expressed surprise at the original fees when they submitted plans for the soon to be built Mallory Square residential complex. The fees totaled $1.1 million for complex, which is planned to be a 365 unit apartment complex near Shady Grove Road and I-270. The total cost of the project is expected to be nearly $40 million.
The project was initially approved in 2011, and stalled when developers became aware of the high fees for the project. Mallory Square was intended to be the first implementation of the county’s Great Seneca Science Corridor, designed to boost residential space and encourage the growth of the local science based industry.
According to the Washington Post, fees for the same project would be only $300,000 in Alexandria, and paradoxically $400,000 in Gaithersburg.
Other residential developers had traditionally avoided Montgomery County because of the fees, however may take a second look now that they have been largely reduced.
The changes are directed towards construction of wood frame buildings, instead of concrete and steel frame buildings. Builders believe that there is a much larger market for wood frame construction, yet the County had previously asserted that inspecting such facilities was more expensive.
The debate over the fees erupted into name calling between Director Diane Jones, head of the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services, who accused builders of attempting to “bully” the county, in an interview with the Washington Post.
The developers denied the charges, and insisted their goals were dedicated towards business interests.
Montgomery County attributed the high fees to the consolidation of ten different regulatory functions, asserting that significant services were provided for the payments given. The Washington Post explains “Those activities include the enforcement of electrical, mechanical and zoning codes, storm-water and flood-plain management, sediment control, and well and septic system approval.”
Differences in code requirements and enforcement in neighboring cities and in Virginia allow for significantly reduced fees.
Executive Leggett will send the proposed fee reduction to the County Council sometime in November or early December.
It is expected that the permit fees will decrease, on average, between $300,000 and $400,000 per project. With the new reductions, it is hoped that Montgomery County becomes a competitive region for new business and residential construction.
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