A new building permit fee is being considered by the Sarpy County Board to provide funding for road improvements.
The fee would be levied on residential and commercial construction inside the county’s zoning jurisdiction, with money going to pay for road improvements across the county.
Deputy County Administrator Scott Bovick told the County Board at its Feb. 11 meeting that, over the long term, he would hope to persuade Sarpy County’s five cities to add a similar fee to projects within their extra-territorial zoning jurisdictions. That territory extends out two miles from Bellevue, Papillion and La Vista and one mile from Gretna and Springfield.
The cities would forward those revenues to the county, he said, which would use them to help pay for road improvements in the various areas, Bovick said.
The county’s fees would be 0.75 percent of the cost of a permit for new homes, duplexes and town homes or $5,000 for multi-family homes and retail or commercial developments. The fee would be $1,000 per development acre for industrial projects that generate little traffic.
Bovick said the fees would support the county’s goal of broadening the tax base so that expensive road improvements need not always be funded by property taxes.
He said the county added 21,000 new residents between 2000 and 2010. That growth requires road improvements, he said, and the new fee will help free the county from reliance on federal gas tax revenue and property taxes.
The Arterial Street Improvement Program, as the proposal is named, is not a novel concept, Bovick said. He said the City of Omaha and Douglas County have imposed a similar fee structure for several years and developers are accustomed to the requirement.
The fees could generate as much as $750,000 a year, he said. The money would accumulate in a specially designated fund until sufficient to fund one or more major projects.
If the board approves the fee, the total cost for permits could rise substantially, Bovick said.
He cited a convenience store that located more than two years ago near 144th Street and Interstate 80 in western Sarpy County. The developer paid $5,500 in permit fees, he said, which would climb to $15,510 under the new fee structure.
Commissioner Don Kelly welcomed the proposal. He said higher county fees might encourage developers to build inside cities, thus encouraging more orderly growth.
“Most of our north-south roads are in woeful need of upgrade, improvement or enhancement, and any funds that we can get to help facilitate that is a good idea,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Richard urged Bovick to ensure the new revenues are distributed evenly.
“If you’re going to do projects in northwest Sarpy County and southwest Sarpy County, and you’re going to put a fee on southeast Sarpy County, you need to figure out a way that they can get a benefit out of it,” he said. “Somehow there has to be an equitable distribution of this money.”
Bovick said he would consult with persons and organizations likely to be affected by the new fees and report back to the County Board in early March. The board will then consider whether to implement the new building permit fee.