After a recent meeting with local developers, Rock Hill city officials noticed their building permit fees for large commercial projects were higher than other cities.
For example, for a construction project valued at $1 million, the city charges $5,745.50 compared to Charleston's $4,050, Clover's $4,020 and Fort Mill's $3,990. Gastonia, N.C., charges $4,329.50.
A proposal that gained the initial approval of the City Council on Monday night would lower building permit fees significantly. The plan is in keeping with City Manager David Vehaun's goal of making Rock Hill more business-friendly.
"In the continuing quest to make Rock Hill's development process a leader in the region," said Bill Meyer, the city's planning and development director, "we feel that the proposed fee schedule will make the city competitive in this important area of building permit fees."
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Fees are typically calculated using the value of the proposed work, how much is charged per $1,000 of construction value and the plan review fee. The review fee comes into effect when the value of proposed construction exceeds $1,000 and must be submitted for approval.
Under the new proposal, permit rates for construction valued between $200,000 and $1 million will drop to $3, from $3.50, per $1,000 of value.
A new rate for construction valued at more than $1 million was added and would drop the cost for developments in that range to $2, from $3.50, for each additional $1,000.
The plan review fee also would be been lowered to 25 percent, from 50 percent, of the building fee.
Vehaun said city staff thought the fees were out of line, particularly for commercial buildings.
"We do not want our permit fees to be a barrier to this kind of investment in our community," he said. "As a result, we have proposed that the City Council establish a fee structure for commercial investment that will be among the lowest in the region."
Local developer Baxter Simpson of Apple Tree Contractors said the proposal is a move in the right direction. Apple Tree has worked on numerous buildings in the area, including the Carolina Energy building on Mount Gallant Road and the Community Performance Center on East Main Street..
"We're glad to get any reduction," Simpson said Monday. "The city is really taking a more business-friendly attitude."
Councilman John Black applauded the city's efforts in the "business-friendly" measure.
"It's one of the many changes we've made to try to make things better in Rock Hill," he said.
Councilman Osbey Roddey was not present for Monday's vote.
The proposal must pass another vote before it is formally approved.