Sandy Springs is updating – and largely increasing – the filing fees for zoning-related applications. The new Community Development fee schedule, as it is known, takes effect Dec. 15.
The fees had not changed since 2006, and city officials said they were no longer covering the cost of reviewing and processing applications. In addition, the fees had to be adjusted to fit new categories and processes in the recently approved new zoning code. Another adjustment, officials said, was clarifying fees for multifamily housing projects, which recently have been a source of dispute and appeals from developers of mixed-use projects.
The fees cover several types of applications, including: Character Area Map amendments; Zoning Map amendments, or rezonings; conditional use permits; variances; appeals; revisions to applications; public notices; temporary use permits; and printed copies of maps and codes.
The fees vary widely depending on zoning, type and project size. But in almost all categories, the fees are increasing significantly. In addition, the applicants now must pay for legal advertising and signage instead of the city. (The Reporter is one of the city’s legal organs that publishes zoning notices.)
The updated fee schedule also eliminates fees on things that will no longer exist under the new zoning – concurrent variances and modifications – while adding fees on something new: changing the Character Area Map.
Some examples of changes in the fees:
- Variances in some residential categories are now $250 plus $50 for additional requests; that will increase to $300 plus $100 per additional request.
- Rezoning in basic residential categories is now a range based on the acreage, from $500 to a maximum of $10,000; that will be simplified to $750 plus $100 per additional acre.
- Changing the new Character Area Map will have fees, depending on category, of $500, $750 or $1,000, with the latter two schedules also charging $100 per additional acre.
- Conditional use permits for all categories except mobile homes doubles from $500 to $1,000.
- The fee for filing appeals increases tenfold, from $50 to $500.
In addition to the fee schedule, there is an additional $5 “technology fee” the council separately adopted. And payments made by credit or debit card get a surcharge of 5 percent.
According to an internal memo about the new fees, city staff researched the fee structures of Brookhaven, Milton, Roswell and Woodstock in Georgia, as well as in Charlotte, N.C., for comparison. The memo says the fees had a wide range of structures that made comparison difficult and that Sandy Springs’ will be comparable, though higher in some categories.
At the Nov. 21 City Council meeting where the new fees were approved, there was some discussion about why the fees did not go into immediate effect. Councilmember Tibby DeJulio expressed concerns that developers might file many projects before Dec. 15 to take advantage of the current lower fees.
“We’re not that generous with time. We’re doing it over the holiday weekend,” Mayor Rusty Paul said with a smile.
Ginger Sotile, the acting Community Development director, agreed that mass filings are unlikely. She said the delay gives her department time to update internal systems and to give the public reasonable notice of the new fees.
Councilmember Chris Burnett said he agrees with the delayed implementation as a way to be “transparent and communicative with the community.”
The new fee schedule is currently available in the City Council meeting packet online here.