Funkstown resident complains to commissioners about cost of permit fees

Washington County administrator said the board discussed reducing fees for smaller projects

April 08, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |

Funkstown resident Barry Warrenfeltz told the Washington County Board of Commissioners this week that his temper had been simmering because of permit costs for several years, but "it went over the edge" when he learned of the cost of obtaining a permit for an event tent.

As a member of the Washington County Coalition of Lutheran Churches, Warrenfeltz is helping bring a traveling summer tent theater group to Funkstown Community Park this June. The permit allowing the group to erect the event's large tent — which would be up less than 24 hours — would cost several hundred dollars, Warrenfeltz told the commissioners Tuesday night.

The commissioners were at the Funkstown Town Hall as part of their effort to visit each of the county's towns once a year.

Warrenfeltz said someone with the county told him Monday that part of the permit fee might be waived, but he didn't think the permits department should have to do that.

He recommended county officials convene a committee of residents, contractors and permit officials to review permit prices and bring them back in line.

For example, Warrenfeltz said Washington County charges a permit fee to replace a bathroom sink, whereas Frederick County, Md., does not.

A check with the permit offices in both counties revealed that was true, but the cost was not as high as Warrenfeltz stated at the meeting.

He also said Washington County charges a greater permit fee to install a single outlet for a TV — $95 compared with $65 in Frederick County. Those figures were accurate, although the $95 covers the cost of one to five outlets, according to the county permitting office.

County Administrator Greg Murray said the commissioners discussed reducing permit fees for smaller projects during an earlier meeting Tuesday.

In particular, they are evaluating cases in which the permit fee is equal to or exceeds the cost of the project, Murray said.

Commissioners President Terry Baker said he was hopeful more people would comply and apply for permits if the county can decrease the costs.

The permit cost to erect an event tent is $165 plus 10 cents per square foot, said Angela Smith, deputy director of Washington County's Division of Plan Review and Permitting.

However, people looking to erect a tent for a nonprofit group or fundraiser can seek a waiver through the county administrator's office, Smith said Thursday.

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