Council tackles property fee increase proposal this week

By Thomas Wilson

   Elizabethton City Council will consider on Thursday night the first reading of a proposed hike in property development fees for the city's Department of Planning.
   If approved, the fees for rezoning, variance and approval for subdivision developments would rise for the first time in 22 years.
   "Those fees have not been changed since they were implemented in 1981," said David Ornduff, city director of Planning and Development.
   Under the proposed fee schedule, requests to rezone property would rise from $25 to $50 for residential and $75 for commercial requests. Fees for property variances would rise from $15 to $50 for residential and $75 for commercial requests. Site plan fees would increase from $15 to $50 for residential site plans and $75 for commercial site plans, while subdivision plat fees would be set at $25.
   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission voted 7-0 to approve a recommendation for increases in fees charged for requests submitted to the city planning department.
   Ornduff presented the zoning fee schedules for surrounding cities that were primarily higher than or equal to the proposed fee schedule. In Bristol, Tenn., variances fees are set at $25, while fees for subdivision plats were $20 and $100 for all rezoning.
   Fees in surrounding cities included, Kingsport: variances, $50; subdivision plats, $25; and $150 for all rezoning; and Johnson City: rezoning residential, $200; rezoning commercial, $450; variance $135; subdivision, $145.
   Ornduff said that the fee increase was being recommended to defray expenses compiled by the planning staff to do field inspections and building inspections of zoning requests submitted to the planning department.
   Amending a city ordinance regulating detached carport structures is also on the council agenda. Aluminum carports with rust-colored roofs have vexed members of the city building department for some months. Accessory building and carports are permitted in the city provided that they are located on side or back yards and set back 5 feet from any property line.
   The council will also consider approving on second reading the 2003-2004 city budget. The city's proposed $11.4 million general fund budget was cut 11 percent this year after city administration factored in the 9 percent loss in state-shared revenues for the upcoming fiscal year. The city's 2002-2003 general fund budget was cut 13 percent last year.
   The budget includes the issuance of $1 million in bonds to fund city capital projects. The capital budget includes up to $500,000 to demolish the Carter County Memorial Hospital building on West G Street.
   The council also prioritized including a $230,000 pumper truck for the Elizabethton Fire Department under the capital project buy.
   Other capital projects prioritized under the budget included $200,000 for street improvement projects on West G and Broad streets as well as Mill Street; $33,000 for a mobile command center for the fire department; $30,000 to replace the roof on the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center; and an appropriation to fund part-time office help and establish a small auxiliary force of police officers.