The Town of Garner will host a series of meetings to determine if its current structure of regulations and fees will attract its share of development as the economy rebounds and the Triangle area grows.
Town manager Hardin Watkins will facilitate the meetings, he said, with developers, architects and engineers among those attending. The first meeting will be on Aug. 22 at White Deer Park Nature Center at 2 p.m. While not advertised as a public input session and targeted to large developers in Garner and the surrounding areas, Watkins said “we’re not going to kick anyone out.”
“The idea is to have community conversations, some dialogue, and also some fact-gathering on the town’s collection of fees and how they might affect development,” Watkins said. “It’s just a checkup on all the regulations we have: are they still worthwhile, and why they were put in place.”
Maze of rules and fees
Companies building commercial and residential real estate must contend with water/sewer impact fees, building permit fees, parks and recreation fees and a number of other permit fees, depending on the project. In addition, various ordinances, including zoning ordinances, specify what can and can’t be built.
Town engineer Frank Powell said assessing the town’s fee structures is no simple task.
“You hope to get an apples-to-apples comparison, but you’re more likely to get apples-to-oranges. Everybody does it a different way,” Powell said.
The initial meeting, in particular, will primarily be a listening session, Watkins said. Eventually, future meetings could involve working with the Institute of Government and soldiering through details. Results will be presented to the Town Council.
Garner economic development director Tony Beasley echoed Watkins’ sentiments that the meetings were an “open book” with no items on an agenda.
“We haven’t heard anyone say ‘I didn’t come to Garner because,’ ” Beasley said. He later added: “We have one of the most expedited processes of any of our sister cities in this county.”
But he said with any project, Garner or elsewhere, developers always tend to see something they’d like done differently.
“Every single project, no matter where, developers all complain about something when they’re trying to build a project,” Beasley said.
Those issues can range from regulatory requirements, fees, required landscaping, curb-and-gutter, sidewalks and other requirements, he said.
One area Watkins and Beasley both said could be looked into: altering the fee schedule. Rather than paying all fees up-front for a large project – say a subdivision – fees could be assessed as individual houses are built. With capital tighter in a still-fragile economy, companies have indicated that they’d appreciate spreading the fees out.
“I don’t know if that’s workable, but it could be studied,” Watkins said.
Spreading out the cost
Fees vary by project size and depend on whether the project is commercial or residential. Currently, water and sewer fees are $7.60 per expected gallon of water and $9.70 per gallon for sewage. Each house in a subdivision comes out around $2,000.
Single-family homes cost $595 in building permit fees for the first 1,200 square feet, and a quarter per additional square foot. Commercial fees depend on the size of the property. Parks and Recreation fees add on an additional $1,110 per single-dwelling unit and $865 per unit in multi-family projects. Other permits also apply.
Builders will weigh-in on these fees as well as any other topics in mind. While promising nothing, the town said it wants to listen with open ears in order to ensure Garner’s position to enjoy further growth as the economy shows signs of life.
“How do we make ourselves as competitive as we can?” Watkins asked.