Government Fees Out of Control

wurdan freo

Was helping a potential client put together a budget for a duplex she wants to build. Duplex = twice the fees of a single family home. Just to get a building permit she was looking at $93,000 in government fees. sewer/water taps, traffic fee, fire district, grading, building permit, planning and zoning review, park and school fee. Everyone wonders why housing is so expensive... well when you have to start 93k in the hole, I don't know how you build affordable housing. This on the heels of Denver floating a developer impact fee of $7/sf. 

Oh yeah and all these reviews and inspections you pay for... well if it's built wrong it's not the governments responsibility. Makes sense to me... 

Jun 16, 16 12:00 am

So, you think your client is entitled to free infrastructure and government services? Tough shit, all that stuff costs money, and I'm sure the taxpayers in that jurisdiction would rather see those things being directly paid for by the people using that infrastructure and services than have to subsidize your client with their tax dollars.

If it's built wrong and catches fire, it's the government's police and firefighters who will be risking their lives to save your client's ass, so I'd argue the government has a very strong vested interest in how it gets built.

Funny how libertarians always turn out to be the biggest freeloaders off the taxpayer trough.

Jun 16, 16 12:07 am

I have to agree with Wurdan. When the house is built the property taxes will accrue to the city for the life of the structure. Most of these services should be complimentary. A lot of these cities who want to squeeze every nickel out of the homeowner have no problem shoveling millions of tax dollars at an employer who threatens to leave, Boeing in Seattle being a prime example.

Jun 16, 16 6:40 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

David - you are forgetting that the Government is the least efficient apparatus out there that deals with money. The employees in the government are some of the least effective and overpaid and over benefitted people in the US. Your Real Estate taxes cover the policemen and firemen and schools etc....the town has every incentive to encourage more homes to be built so that they may collect more taxes over time. The infrastructure sucks because the apparatus for creating it and maintaining it is highly inefficient. - its a dinosaur. Its like paying for a Mercedes Benz but all you get is a bicycle without a seat.

Jun 16, 16 7:24 am

seems excessive, after all, a permitting a duplex doesn't involve twice the work on the part of the govt.  

Curious, what if it was a 2 unit rental apartment?  I would assume that fees for commercial type developments would be higher, but hard to imagine at that level.

Jun 16, 16 8:34 am
I chalk this up to, oh fucking well. Due diligence dumbass. Due diligence. If you don't know what shit costs, you have no business, doing business.
Jun 16, 16 8:44 am

i really don't think the government is the least efficient apparatus for any sort of management of or distribution of money.  i would put insurance companies at the top of the list, but i bet there are worse.  the financial industry in general is pretty mismanaged. 

certainly you could point to the federal government as having too much redundant bureaucracy, but as the nation's largest employer (and likely one of the worlds largest employer's?) that is to be expected. local governments are of course smaller and probable run more efficient.  i guess lumping the local planning department with the GSA is off topic though, so i'll stop rambling.

hi coeywong88

Jun 16, 16 9:16 am
Non Sequitur

Hey Coey, how are things in the random salutation world?

Not sure how fees differ but compared to the fees on my projects, $93k for a duplex is pretty damn high. I think fees were a quarter million on a massive exhibition hall but we knew that going in because... well, you need to know how much shit costs because you start.

Jun 16, 16 9:21 am

he's including grading and extending water/sewer in 'fees,' so part of that is actual work

Jun 16, 16 9:25 am

These kinds of "fees" are nothing but surreptitious tax increases.  Routine tax revenues that, a generation ago, used to pay for routine, expected government services are now being diverted into things that are not benefits for the general population.  Then government cries about not having enough revenues.  But, if they went to the public and requested a general tax increase they would have to explain away all the misuses of the monies they already collect.  They know damn well that the explanations wouldn't wash, so they try to find as many ways as possible to levy hidden taxes.  Since people don't think it costs them anything when the evil builder pays the fees, they figure "why not?".

Aaayyyy!, don't get me started.

Jun 16, 16 10:04 am

WF, the tap fees out here are outrageous. I suspect that is a good chunk of it?

Jun 16, 16 11:12 am

how much of the fee is related to the sewer?  Since its a duplex i was imagining that the water/sewer connections are easily available, but perhaps not?

Jun 16, 16 11:12 am

I'm guessing this in on raw (unimproved) land?  

Jun 16, 16 12:11 pm
wurdan freo

^What geezer said...

I never said the shit should be free... but for fuck's sake... (No time to make a real argument. Not interested in turning this into a political thread.)

FYI - Sewer water tap fee at $33,500 each side includes no actual hard costs for connecting to the sewer. Those are $12,000.  Fee to connect is three times the cost to install. 

Actually see the most value in the sewer water tap fee although I think it is excessive. Neighboring communities are charging +/-$10,000 for sewer water tap fee. 

What exactly does my building permit fee get me??? no value there.

Grading fee required for excavation over 10'.  Again - not paying for actual work - just a fee. On what is essentially a flat lot.  

Average home price in Denver just reached an all time high of $400k. 

Jun 16, 16 12:18 pm

poor people can live in tents right?

Jun 16, 16 2:33 pm

^ ^ I bet they don't need to pay the $10k fee when they don't have a toilet to hook up!

Jun 16, 16 4:39 pm
Bench, They will have to pay for change of use from freeway underpass to residential
Jun 16, 16 7:07 pm

Average home price in Denver just reached an all time high of $400k. 

Yeah, and so now they are talking (per Denver Post) about raising property taxes across the board to fund "affordable" housing initiatives (read:  developer/landlord subsidies).  What a racket.  More government initiatives to mitigate the damage caused by previous government initiatives.  As Sonny and Cher sang:  "The beat goes on."

Jun 16, 16 7:25 pm

The only way to fix govt problems is more govt. Just keep distorting those markets! These are generally good problems to have with a place that people want to live in.

Jun 16, 16 9:33 pm

If you're covering undisturbed land with a new building, do you have to retain the storm runoff on your site?

Jun 17, 16 7:26 am

More relevant (from the same firm over a year earlier):

Jul 8, 16 12:53 pm

Yeah, and so now they are talking (per Denver Post) about raising property taxes across the board to fund "affordable" housing initiatives (read:  developer/landlord subsidies).

Lol..  One of the biggest issues is the multiple governments you are dealing with.  Taxes have nothing to do with Denver Water, so nothing changes there.  It's all the little jurisdictional governments that are running amok and no one is really watching them.

Oh, and don't get me into the 'this pays for the infrastructure' when my clients have built roads, extended utilities, etc. as part of the construction budget.  The utility companies just maintain the infrastructure, but don't really construct anything anymore. Then scream for money when age catches up to the systems... because they've blown all that money elsewhere.  Feels like that SouthPark where Stan deposit's money in a bank to invest; "Poof...a n d ... It's gone.  Next customer please...."  

Jul 8, 16 1:54 pm

What a perfect old thread, last year worked on a hotel where the scope was repaint and add correct grab bars to 6 ADA guestrooms in Santa Cruz, $250,000 in permit fees. Looked up plan check salaries on glassdoor, $127,000/, this shit is not going to infrastructure. 

Feb 7, 17 12:10 am

^  Appalling.  At least when Tony Soprano's crew shakes somebody down they don't sanctimoniously claim it's for "the public interest".

Feb 7, 17 9:48 am

I can guarantee you that local plan checkers are not even making half of that salary, archi-dude. FFS, it's Santa Cruz.


Feb 7, 17 10:09 am

I have a building with a permit fee over $400,000, but that includes water/sewer impact and other fees the village has (out in the Chicagoland suburbs).

To contrast, I have another slightly smaller footprint building getting ready to start construction here in Chicago. Its permit fee? 40k. 

The discrepancy be cray.

Feb 7, 17 10:14 am

My client just turned over a check for a little over $90k for state environmental impact permitting alone (this is on a +/- $12 million project).  This doesn't even include any of the permits wurdan freo lists in the original post - this is for state site approval alone.  There's nothing special about this site - but anything 10 acres or larger goes through this process.

As for plan checker salaries: I don't know where 127k can be found.  I turned down a plan checker job a few years ago - the high end of the range was 53k.

Feb 7, 17 10:35 am

Sorry Donna, eat your words, ha ha!

Feb 7, 17 11:42 pm
wurdan freo

In the immortal words of nelson muntz... Ha-Ha.

Latest gem from local government... require me to have signed and stamped engineers letter for all structural concrete.. plus after the engineer has reviewed the work, the local ahj must do a second inspection... FFS!!!

Feb 8, 17 12:10 am

So I am not arctitect but I do have a story. I just purchursed a new condo in Tamarac FL. One of the very few things I wanted to do is change out the toilets (so low) and the state of FL charges $95 per toilet and I also want to change the sinks which are another 250 per sink/cabnite. So on top of paying 129.99 per toilet, I have to pay $200 dollars more just to change them out. The cabinets cost $350-$450 plus another $250 just for the fee. I cant afford to do anything to my condo. not one thing. Mind you this I pay taxes. These fee should not be $95!! this is insane. Its like our gov. wants us to fail/get into debit. 

Mar 24, 20 3:43 pm
Non Sequitur

Those are pretty nominal. If you can't afford those, you most certainly can't afford the condo. Adulting is hard and things cost money.


really? you think its normal to an extra $200 just to have someone come to my home and take a shit to see if the toilet work properly? I can afford the condo. I guess Im just being cheap for NOT wanting to pay more money then I have too. but thanks. 

Mar 24, 20 4:00 pm
Non Sequitur

Correct, you're just cheap.



Mar 24, 20 4:35 pm
Chad Miller

Not only are you cheap but you don't know how to respond to a comment on a website where there is a clearly marked 'reply' button. Moron.


it could be a mobile browser incompatibility


Florida, of course

Mar 24, 20 5:59 pm

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