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  • Development Services suspends planned fee increase

    Consistent with Pima County’s longstanding business friendly posture, the Development Services Department has suspended a planned increase to building and zoning fees. 

    County ordinances established an annual 2 percent rate increase to Development Services fees in 1997 as a way to maintain adequate revenue and keep pace with Consumer Price Indexes. 

    Development Services requested the Board of Supervisors approve the suspension of the increase in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Board did at the June 23 meeting. The department also sought to suspend the fee increase while a revised fee system is explored. 

    “We are working with our stakeholders in the housing and commercial building communities to restructure our fees,” said Carla Blackwell, Director of Pima County Development Services. 

    Blackwell said the new fees would simplify the current structure by collapsing and bundling related fees and reducing the number of fee categories. That restructuring could be ready by the end of the year and in place early next year. 

    In addition to the fee restructuring plan, Blackwell said the department would look to implement policies that would link future fee increases to the cash balances of the departmental budget. For instance, if Development Services ends the fiscal year Building projectwith a small cash balance, fees could be increased the following year by a maximum of two percent. If Development Services ends the fiscal year with cash surpluses, however, fees could be reduced up to five percent for the following budget year. 

    The fee restructuring is currently under review with the building industry, which supported suspending the increases while the new methodology is being developed.  

    “Any effort to maintain current fees and delay regulatory changes will provide much needed predictability for home builders as they navigate the current economy,” Southern Arizona Home Builders Association’s Shawn Cote wrote in a letter to the Board of Supervisors. “We are confident this action, regardless of fee amount, helps encourage economic development in our community.”

    Metropolitan Pima Alliance Director Allyson Solomon also backs the fee suspension. 

    “Metropolitan Pima Alliance is supportive of the proposed development services fee suspension ordinance,” Solomon wrote. “In a time of so much uncertainty and flex, any additional stability to the industry is encouraged and appreciated.”

    Development Services has suspended the annual fee increases in the past in response to economic conditions. During the housing collapse beginning in 2008 the department also postponed increasing fee schedules. 

    The fee increase suspension and coordination with the development community on revising fee structure is part of Development Services philosophy of enhanced service delivery. Due to efficiencies reducing costs and duplicative reviews, some fees can be bundled and reduced. 

    Over the past several years, the department has streamlined many of its processes to provide faster, more efficient service. This has been done through measures like remote inspections and a largely digitized application and permitting process, which minimizes the need for customers to physically visit Development Services offices at 201 N. Stone Ave. 
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