Pine City has made several significant changes to its permit fees, and not all of those changes are popular with local property owners.
DAKA Corporation President Kevin Anderson had some pointed questions for city officials at the Jan. 8 city council meeting.
“Why do I have to pay the city a $75 permit fee when I hire Dale’s Heating to come over and put a new air conditioner in? I don’t get this,” Anderson said. “Last month I had to put a new unit heater in. It cost me $50 from the city for a permit. I don’t get that at all.”
Building permit fees have been changed to fit with the Minnesota rules and the 1997 Uniform Building Code fee schedule. A full list can be found online (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wnibvYvf-164OGBOfd7vbQkpGRpDqGhB/view).
“I would venture to say that the rationale for the fee is so that the city would come and inspect and make sure that the work was done in compliance with code,” said Pine City Mayor Carl Pederson.
“I hire professional people to do this – certified electricians, building insured contractors,” Anderson said. “Quite frankly, I would venture to say that the building inspector doesn’t come over and look at the appliance. I would challenge you on that.”
“Well, I hope they’re doing that,” Pederson said. “They came and looked at my roof, I know that.”
“Yeah, but that’s building construction,” Anderson said. “I’m talking about a heater.”
Council Member Brian Scholin said that some time back a city inspector came to look at his replacement water heater.
“Well, good for you,” Anderson said. “I’m glad you like paying $75.”
“It was cheaper back then,” Scholin said.
“I just don’t see the reasoning for it,” Anderson responded.
“I think that’s basically state [rules],” Scholin said. “The state requires inspections of any plumbing or piping or electrical. So somebody’s got to do it.”
In response to questions after the meeting, Pine City Administrator Matthew Van Steenwyk said the change, “... helped keep our fee schedule more streamlined, reduced any mid year changes needed due to building code updates outside of our control. “
Administrative Citation fee
Pine City added an “Administrative Citation” fee, which includes $75 plus abatement fees.
Van Steenwyk said the Administrative Citation was approved by the city council is intended to be a tool that staff can use to help mitigate ordinance violations issues earlier in the process.
“The hope is that when a violation occurs we have this tool later in the process to seek corrective action (i.e. unmowed lawns, trash in the front yard, etc). The hope is that we can correct issues without having to seek assistance from the county prosecutor (which can be costly and time drawn out).”
Van Steenwyk said that the Administrative Citation was not meant to, “be a heavy hand, but to provide staff a tool to help motivate corrective action.”
He said that city officials hope they never have to collect the fee, and that instead the property owner communicates with city staff and takes corrective actions.
Before issuing an Administrative Citation, the city will issue a compliance letter outlining the nature of the violation and compliance deadline.
“Citations and property abatement are the city’s method of last resort,” the letter reads. “The city wants to work with residents to resolve their maintenance issues. Unfortunately, if an owner is unwilling to cooperate, the city is left with few options.”
The letter urges the property owner to communicate with city staff and complete the work.
“If you are unable to complete all of the required work by the compliance date, please call the staff person listed on the compliance letter for an extension to avoid further action,” the letter reads. “City staff can work with owners to resolve the violation, including but not limited to offering reasonable extensions for compliance.”
Other Fee schedule changes
• Zoning permits remain $50, and still include accessory structures under 200 square feet, signs (including replacements and change-outs), fences under seven feet, retaining walls at or less than four feet, and pools or spas. This year, driveways were added to the zoning permit.
• Demolition permit fees went from $50 to $75.
• Residential maintenance permit fees went from $49 to $75.
• A septic maintenance permit was added for $20.
• Mobile food units still have a permit charge of $20, but now include the requirement that they stay a maximum of 21 days at a single location.
• Towing fees went from $140 to $150.