published Friday, March 11th, 2011

Walker planning office increases fees for permits

By Timothy Bradfield

LaFAYETTE, Ga.—The Walker County Planning and Development office, trying to wean itself from tax support, this week raised some permit fees for the first time since 2004.

“We’re trying to make our department [the planning office] at least pay for itself,” Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said.

Heiskell approved the fee increase after the Walker County Planning Commission unanimously passed it.

“Our fee schedule was much lower than surrounding counties’,” Heiskell said.

Kelia Kimbell, director at the planning and development office, researched fees that surrounding counties, including Bartow, Catoosa, Gordon, Hamilton and Whitfield, charged. She modified Walker County’s fee schedule based on those comparisons.

“And we tried to stay under everyone else’s,” Kimbell said. “We weren’t even at half before we started.”

Of all the increases, she said, the building permit fee probably will affect the most people.

Under Walker County’s old fee schedule a building permit for a 2,000-square-foot home would have cost $425. Now the fee will be $625.

The largest fee increase is for new cell phone towers.

Years ago, the county charged companies $50 for a permit to erect a cell tower.

“When you consider the value of the structure that they’re putting there and how much money that tower’s going to bring in to that company and all of those things, $50 was like pennies,” Kimbell said.

In 2004, the last time the county increased its fees, the cell tower permit was raised to $600 plus a dollar per linear foot of tower height.

“That was a drop in the bucket in comparison to what other communities were charging,” Kimbell said.

Now the fee for new towers will be $1,500 plus $2 per linear foot of tower height.

County officials hope that eventually the money from the fee hikes will enable the office to become self-sufficient.

Timothy Bradfield covers Walker County. Contact him at timothyb2010@gmail.com.

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