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Orange County

Revised County Building Fees OKd

Supervisors approve new system in which developers are charged by the hour, rather than a flat rate. But builders are wary of extra costs.

February 26, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted a new fee system for inspecting buildings and reviewing development plans, replacing the old flat fees with charges based on the time county employees spend on each job.

When the reforms take effect in April, Orange County will become the second county in the state with the billing system -- one that supervisors said will improve accountability. Riverside County has used a similar system for years.

"This isn't perfect, but it's a tremendous improvement over what we've had," Supervisor Chris Norby said.

County officials acknowledged that they don't know how large a deposit to collect from developers, because the county has never tracked the time spent on each type of job. Deposits will be based temporarily on existing fees that will be adjusted within six months, when any surpluses will be reimbursed.

Officials with the local chapter of the Building Industry Assn. cautiously supported the new system but asked the county to justify a 212% overhead rate, billed on top of the employee's hourly pay, charged for each worker on a job. The rate includes such charges as administration and training. The fee structure goes into effect 30 days after a final review next week.

Supervisors pushed to rehabilitate the county's Planning and Development Services Department in December after huge deficits were discovered. The county also is facing a lawsuit over its fee structure.

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