Certain Sarasota County building and inspection fees to be cut 25% from June 22 through Sept. 30 to aid businesses in recovery from COVID-19 shutdown

Local business group had requested County Commission action

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The County Commission meets in Chambers in downtown Sarasota on June 3, with County Administrator Jonathan Lewis and County Attorney Frederick Elbrecht facing the board. Commissioner Christian Ziegler participated through remote meeting technology, as he said he and his family were self-quarantining after their exposure to a friend who later tested positive for COVID-19. News Leader image

Although updated Sarasota County building permit fees just went into effect this spring, the County Commission voted this week cut many of them by 25% in an effort “to assist in the reopening and recovery of County residents and local businesses,” as a staff memo put it.

The latest changes will go into effect on June 22 and remain in place through Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year, the staff memo said.

Along with the lower building fees, the resolution that won commission support also will reduce specific re-inspection fees by 25%, the staff memo pointed out.

The June 3 action was part of the board’s unanimous approval of its Consent Agenda of routine business items.

On Oct. 8, 2019, the staff memo noted, the commission adopted a resolution that updated the fee schedule for county building permits.

The staff memo the commissioners received in advance of that October 2019 meeting explained, “The last time Sarasota County comprehensively updated fees relating to administration and enforcement of the Florida Building Code was in 2007.”

In May 2018, that memo continued, county staff contracted with MGT of America Consulting and its subcontractor, the Azimuth Consulting Group, “to assist in analyzing the Building Division user fees and updating the associated fee structure; implement new or revised fee policies, where appropriate; engage key stakeholder groups (the development community) throughout the process; and provide a cost methodology and model for the County to utilize in ensuring that the fees charged reasonably reflect the County’s costs.”

Among the stakeholders with whom staff and the consultant met were the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, the October 2019 memo noted.

MGT presented the findings of its study to the commission on Aug. 28, 2019, the October 2019 memo reminded the commissioners.

Even though the board approved the new fee schedule last fall, it did not go into effect until March, the June 3 staff memo explained.

County staff plans an analysis at the end of the fiscal year — which concludes on Sept. 30 — to determine whether the “fee model is performing as anticipated,” the June 3 memo pointed out.

The action this week was prompted by a letter county leaders received from the Coalition of Business Associations (COBA), which sought commission support to help in the reopening of businesses as allowed in Executive Orders Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued.

Among COBA’s members are The Argus Foundation, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association and Visit Sarasota County, according to the May 1 letter the group sent commission Chair Michael Moran. The group says it represents more than 7,000 employers in the region.

The letter added that “finding ways to expedite and streamline approvals, permitting, inspections, and licensing should be a priority” for local government in facilitating the “creative operation of businesses right now.”

This is a partial list of the fees that will be reduced by 25%. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Part of the fees affected by the June 3 County Commission vote are related to new multi-family and commercial construction and additions. Eight levels of non-refundable fees are included, for example, for review of plans. The figures the board approved last year range from $84 for a project with a value up to $25,000 to $1,571.83 for a plan review involving construction valued at more than $3 million.

Another affected section of fees deals with permitting and inspections for residential and commercial alterations and renovations. Those figures range from $84 to $904.34.

The commission’s vote this week will not apply to fees related to land development.

As for the re-inspection fees: Those involve all types of construction, the October 2019 resolution indicates, with amounts ranging from $61 for an initial re-inspection to $120 for a third re-inspection of the same item to “4 times the initial inspection amount” for the fourth and “each subsequent inspection thereafter for the same item.”