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Many county fees go up this month

Dave Rush

 (Edtior's note: This has been updated to correct an error for residential and commercial structures.)

Anyone applying for a land use or special permit through the Douglas County Land and Resource Management office may see an increase in fees — depending on the permit.

Douglas County commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 16, approved several permit fee increases that take effect Feb. 1.

For many permits, including special conditional use permits, the fee increased by at least $100, while others, such as an environmental assessment worksheet, increased by 500 percent. Previously, those needing an environmental assessment worksheet paid a fee of $300. That fee will increase to $1,500.

According to Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush, the county only deals with one such worksheet every one to two years.

"We don't do them often," he said. "But when we do have one, there is a significant amount of staff time and effort expended, including mailing notices, responding to questions and copying of large documents. We also have some sort of public meeting to answer questions and provide feedback."

The previous $300 fee, Rush said, didn't come close to covering the expenses related to the environmental assessment process.

All conditional use applications increased by $100 except for the conditional use permit for gravel mining. That fee was $300 and the new fee doubled to $600.

Conditional use permits are required for some land uses that under most circumstances would be allowed with appropriate restrictions. For instance, in a residential area, a new single family home would need only a regular building permit, but a proposed apartment building would need a conditional use permit; or in agricultural areas, the conditional use permit would be needed for such things as a very large livestock operation or atypical building, such as a storage unit.

The fee increases stem from a discussion at budget meetings held last year. Rush said the Douglas County Board of Commissioners inquired about the revenue from permit fees and other fees that his office collects. The last time any substantial changes were made to the fee schedule was in 2004, he said.

At those budget meetings, Rush said the commissioners requested that his office examine the time and costs for the permitting, inspection and enforcement activities the department carries out, as well as examine the fees charged by neighboring counties for similar activities.

Rush and his staff came up with a proposed fee schedule that commissioners approved.

A summary of the changes include:

• Increases in fees for residential and commercial structures of $5 per 100 square feet. 

• Increases in some of the fees for accessory structures.

• Changes and increases in fees for special permits such as conditional use permits, variances and plats.

• Changes to the after-the-fact fees.

• Increases in the fees for certain shoreland alterations.

• No changes were proposed for cell phone towers and renewable energy systems, septic systems and business licenses.

The entire fee schedule is available on the Douglas County website, www.co.douglas.mn.us, or by calling the Land and Resource Management office at 320-762-3863.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242
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