Douglas County increases building permit fee for first time in decade
By the numbers
Below is a three-county breakdown of building permit fees for construction projects valued at $250,000:
$5,250: Carson City
$3,103: Washoe County
$2,632.63: Douglas County (new rate after 3.2 percent building permit increase on June 21)
Source: Douglas County
MINDEN, Nev. — It has been more than a decade since the last time Douglas County raised its building permit fees.
On June 21, commissioners approved increasing the building permit fees 3.2 percent after learning they were among the cheapest in Western Nevada.
According to Building Official David Lundergreen, Carson City charges $5,250 to permit construction valued at $250,000.
Washoe County is charging $3,103 for a similar project, while the new Douglas fee is $2,632.63.
Lundergreen said the last time the fee was raised was 2007 before the Great Recession.
“Every year we would talk to the county manager starting in 2009 and we were told not to bring it forward due to the recession.”
The county is only allowed to raise its fee by the Consumer Price Index averaged over the past year under state law.
“Why are we so far behind Carson City?” Commissioner Nancy McDermid asked. “Construction costs are similar and the amount of work the building department does here is going to be comparable to what they do in Carson.”
Lundergreen said other the jurisdictions have long had a higher fee schedule than Douglas.
County Manager Larry Werner, who was Carson City manager for many years, said the capital did an evaluation of its processes to determine their true costs and adjusted permit fees accordingly.
He said the process takes three to four months and would require the county to hire a consultant, though he said there might be an opportunity to do it through the University of Nevada, Reno.
Building is up this year, so Lundergreen analyzed where Douglas was with neighboring jurisdictions.
“I didn’t realize exactly how far behind we are from other jurisdictions,” he said. “Our revenues are up significantly. Our conservative estimates have been pretty close to around $100,000 up in the past, but this year we are already looking at $500,000 more than anticipated.”
He estimated building department revenues could reach $1.5 million by the end of the month.
That means the county’s building inspectors are busy and its builders are experiencing delays.
When the recession hit, the department went from 11 employees to six, because building slowed down.
“We started looking at the turnaround times to process permits,” Werner said. “Some of our residential construction is taking anywhere from five to eight days, and sometimes 10 days or longer. That’s affecting both the building permit and the engineering counters.”
The cost of a permit could increase further should voters approve a measure on the November ballot that would charge $400 per residential unit to help pay for roads.
On June 21, commissioners learned that only one person had volunteered to write an argument for the ballot. Because they didn’t have anyone to write an argument against the question, they decided to turn the effort over to the Clerk-Treasurer and District Attorney’s offices.
“This has to be a first,” McDermid observed. “We don’t have a person opposing a tax in Douglas County.”
The county has charged $500 per single-family dwelling or apartment since 1997. Should voters approve the new fee, that would mean $900 per residential unit, which would increase to $1,000 in 2020.
To qualify, an applicant’s ranch or farm must have belonged to his or her family for at least 100 years and must be a working ranch or farm with a minimum of 160 acres. Operations with fewer than 160 acres must have gross yearly sales of at least $1,000.