After reviewing what other cities charge for conditional-use, variances and rezoning permits, the Marion City Council Feb. 20 approved raising its fees from $16 to $75 for each kind of permit.
“The fee of $16 is too little, but $75 is regionally responsible,” said City Administrator Doug Kjellin, who provided council members with a breakdown of permit charges in use by nine cities similar in size to Marion.
Fredonia, Westmoreland, Hiawatha, Cherryvale, Kechi, Solomon, Blue Valley, Neodesha and Bennington were included in the comparison.
The research showed that Neodesha has no fee for the three permits in question.
Blue Valley charges $25 for all three. At the high end was Kechi, which charges $300 for conditional-use, $175 for a variance and $400 for rezoning.
The average fee was $71.11 for conditional-use, $114.38 on variances and $57.50 for rezoning.
Kjellin recommended an increase to $75 across the board.
“It won’t cover all our costs if we have a large mailing that is certified,” he said. “But it is back in line (with other towns).”
Mayor Mary Olson asked if the fees were for commercial as well as residential and what would be an example of residential rezoning.
Kjellin said if someone in an area zone for “low-density” decided to turn a big house decided into apartments, the property would need to be rezoned to “medium” or “high” density.
Kjellin said he is not a “fan” of variances, based on his experience with real estate, because in many cases requests for variances come from property owners after they have already disobeyed the regulation.
“Variances are typically, in my way of looking at it, planning and zoning (issues),” he said. “They should be used when the city has a need and we cause (a person’s property) to be outside (a property line). Then they can apply for a variance because we encroached.”
Councilor Steve Smith thanked Kjellin for giving council members the information on fee structures.
“After looking at the figures you brought us,” Smith said, “it looks like we could go to $100 and not be out of line.”
Kjellin said Marty Fredrickson, zoning administrator, analyzed the need for rezoning in a typical residential area.
“The county pulled up 18 homes that needed to be notified for a rezone,” he said.
Calculating $5.50 a piece for certified mail, Kjellin said sending notifications by certified mail would cost the city about $100.
But, he added, Marion County uses a system that lists all residences needing to be contacted, and keeps a log with the date the notification was mailed and some certification.
“The county attorney said that is good enough to meet state statute, and if that is the case, we don’t have the certified mailing cost,” Kjellin said. “We just have the regular mailing cost of 47 cents instead of $5.50.”
After the council unanimously approved the fee increase, Olson said city ordinances would need to be changed to reflect the increase.
Kjellin said the Budgetary and Monetary Guideline manual would also need to be changed. He said the city office would initiate the changes to make the new fees enforceable.
Three Marion High School FFA officers, Jessie Taylor, Jacob Cope and Derrick Dvorak, and their adviser, Mark Meyer, witnessed Olson sign a proclamation declaring Feb. 18 through 25 as FFA Week.
This year’s theme is “I Believe.”
The proclamation stated FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is about promoting leadership, personal growth and career success.
Meyer invited council members to attend Wednesday’s breakfast.
The city has budgeted money for the removal of 15 tree stumps, Kjellin said. The bid opening is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, March 2, in council chambers at Marion City Hall.
Kjellin said seven of the 15 stumps are at Marion Cemetery, with diameters ranging from 24 inches to 52 inches.
Other stumps are located along South First, Welch, Third, East Santa Fe, Elm Street and North Cedar streets.
The largest stump has a diameter of 101 inches.
“The trees at the cemetery were diseased,” he said, “but some trees are an impediment to the electrical lines and are being cut out on an easement agreement with the owners.”
Kjellin said the cost of cutting down trees is the city’s responsibility if the tree is dead, dying or not viable.
“We cut it down, and in that instance the city is responsible for the stump,” he said.
Kjellin commended city crews for saving the city almost $5,000 by taking care of some of the tree-trimming themselves.
“Because of their efforts, they actually put money back in our budget by not having the work done professionally,” he said.
Councilor Jerry Kline asked about progress in replacing the damage to the stone wall at a resident’s house.
Kjellin said the work hasn’t started yet. “I was giving (crews) the opportunity to get it done this spring,” he said.
Smith said the resident told him she wasn’t pushing for a particular completion date as long as the work was completed correctly.
“The mortar work will be done,” Kjellin said, “but (crews) don’t want that to be in freezing conditions.”
In other business, the council:
• approved renewing Marion Dye & Fixture’s tax abatement for another 10 years. The original tax abatement is scheduled to end in 2013, said Angela Lange, city clerk.
• approved pursuing a Community Development Block Grant for Jex Addition sewer project.
• approved a fire agreement between the city and Center, Wilson, Gale and Grant townships.
The next council meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 6.