Commission to consider implementing a flat-rate fee structure for building in the floodplain

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Building permit officer and mapping and addressing coordinator Terri Jo Bennett addresses Upshur County Commissioners at Thursday's meeting.

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday approved moving forward with a new fee structure for building in the floodplain and will have a first reading on an ordinance effecting it in January 2020.

Commissioners returned to the Upshur County Floodplain Ordinance at their Dec. 19 meeting after deciding to add a percentage-based fee structure to the ordinance at a meeting in April and then opting to postpone the change at the May 2 meeting.

At the time, Upshur County Administrator Carrie Wallace said commissioners had postponed taking action in April because the state of West Virginia was then updating its model floodplain ordinance.

“We postponed making any changes to the ordinance because the state was updating their model ordinance,” Wallace said. “They now concluded their updates and distributed those to all the different counties. However, after looking at the floodplain ordinance and the amount of changes they incorporated, and the lack of training there has been to the counties at this point, we’d like to hold off on implementing all those other changes, but it’s a good time to implement a fee structure that you previously discussed back in April.”

Wallace said back in April, the commission decided to move forward with a rate of .25 percent for residential and 1.0 percent for commercial; however, concerns surrounding that model had popped up.

“There’s some concern with that because we don’t require contracts from the property owner and contractor showing what the actual amount of the construction is,” Wallace said.

The new proposed fee structure would institute a flat rate fee of $75 for residential building, and then for commercial projects, it would be a fee of $100 up to $100,000 worth of construction. Above $100,000, the feel would be a 10th of a percent based on the cost of the project, Wallace said.

“So, for a commercial project of $33,000, it would be $100 fee and for a commercial project of $250,500 it will be a $250.50 fee,” she explained.

Wallace also mentioned that any construction started prior to the property owner obtaining a floodplain permit will face a tripled fine.

“Due to the increased cost of processing when any work for which a permit is required by this ordinance started or proceeded prior to obtaining a floodplain permit, the fee shall be tripled,” Wallace said. “The additional fee is intended to partially reimburse Upshur County for the additional cost of processing permits for work already underway. Payment of the increased fee shall not relieve any person from complying fully with the requirements of this ordinance in the execution of the work or from other penalties prescribed herein.”

From left, commission president Sam Nolte, comissioner Kristie Tenney and commissioner Terry Cutright discuss a new flat-rate fee for building in the floodplain with the county’s building permit officer, Terri Jo Bennett.

Upshur County building permit officer and mapping and addressing coordinator Terri Jo Bennett said people beginning construction before securing a permit has been a real problem.

“That’s where the biggest problem lies for us as far as in Upshur County, when it comes to the floodplain permits,” Bennett said. “Generally speaking, a lot of people start the project before they come in and actually get their permit and so there’s a lot of additional follow-up that’s required when you start the project without getting your permit and you’ve already started construction.”

Bennett said there are only seven counties in West Virginia, including Upshur, that do not implement a fee structure for building in the floodplain.

“The overwhelming majority definitely charges a minimal fee just like what we’re doing, just to try to help compensate some of the expenses that we’re incurring when it comes to building within a floodplain,” Bennett said.

Commissioner Kristie Tenney made a motion to pass the proposed fee structure, and commissioner Terry Cutright seconded it prior to the motion passing. A first reading of the ordinance will take place at the commission’s Jan. 9, 2020 meeting, and if it’s approved then, the second reading will take place Jan. 16, 2020.