Fort Worth development fees could increase

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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For the first time in almost a decade, Fort Worth is considering significant changes to development and oil and gas fees to help keep pace with the city’s accelerated growth.

The new fee structure — along with new charges — could raise an additional $902,000, helping the city recover costs related to growth and development, Randle Harwood, director of planning and development, said at Tuesday’s pre-council meeting.

The revenue total with the new fees is projected to be $13.25 million in fiscal 2015, still leaving the city $1.85 million short of covering costs with the fees.

Harwood said the city is trying to recover costs related to growth and development and is adjusting fees based on the scope of projects. More complex projects take longer to review, permit and inspect.

The last comprehensive fee change was in 2006.

For example, the permit for a preliminary plat for a single-family development could more than double from $1,075 to $3,500.

Now, the city does not charge for gas line compressor annual inspections, but the staff is proposing a fee of $500, an estimated revenue increase of $20,000 a year.

Other fees are decreasing, such as the permit fee for a zoning change of 5 to 10 acres, which will go from $1,900 to $1,600.

Developers in favor

Mark Presswood, president of Panther Real Estate Solutions and chairman of the city’s Development Advisory Committee, said the fee changes were needed with the evolving market.

“Everything is costing more to do business today, and they brought forth a fee structure that we felt was very reasonable on the development community,” Presswood said, adding that the committee made some suggestions. Ultimately, the committee approved the changes.

“They did a good job of studying the market as a whole and looking at what other cities charge, and we were probably underpriced in certain areas,” Presswood said.

The City Council is expected to vote on the changes April 1.

Council members were receptive to the changes but said the department should focus on improving customer service as fees rise.

“As you raise prices and increase these fees, there is also a certain obligation and responsibility to provide a service that is compatible,” Councilman Dennis Shingleton said.

Booming business

Harwood said his department is working to increase customer satisfaction and efficiencies with the resources it has. But if the city keeps growing at this rate, he said, his department could need additional staff in fiscal 2015.

Fort Worth issued 10,576 building permits in 2013, a total of $2.3 billion, the largest value it’s ever had. It issued 8,115 residential permits, at a value of $642 million, and 2,461 commercial permits, at $1.7 billion.

To help with customer service, Harwood’s department created a project facilitation program. Instituted last year, it gives large and complex developments specific staff members to coordinate with throughout permitting and development, Harwood said.

The team of five has contributed to high levels of customer satisfaction and reductions in processing time, Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said during the March 4 pre-council meeting.

The need for project facilitators was one of the top issues that came up to Mayor Betsy Price when she ran for office. Now, she said, she doesn’t hear that complaint from developers.

“The shift in the culture, the mindset, is incredible,” Price said March 4.

The facilitators are working with 50 projects and representing over 4 million square feet.

And Harwood expects to have electronic plan review in place by the end of the year.

“We always have room to improve, but we need the revenue to be able to do it,” Harwood said.

Other council business

Also Tuesday, the council unanimously approved several economic development deals.

• The first was a five-year tax abatement with Paulos Properties for the redevelopment of the Texas & Pacific Railway Addition at 1500-1504 E. Lancaster Ave. The building will be redeveloped into an office and treatment center for behavioral health, with the company investing $513,343 to redevelop it. The estimated tax abatement is $22,116.41 over five years.

• The council also approved a deal with Houston-based Victory Packaging, which wants to consolidate two Dallas locations into a new facility near CentrePort in far east Fort Worth. The company was granted a 10-year abatement on up to 50 percent of the real and business property tax, or $675,000, to help with the development at 15101 Grand River Road. The company is expected to offer at least 60 full-time jobs by June 2015, with 15 percent to be filled by Fort Worth residents and the greater of 30 percent or $3.6 million in construction costs with Fort Worth companies.

• An abatement for Dannon Co. of up to 50 percent of the business personal property tax was approved. The company wants to improve and expand its machinery at the Fort Worth yogurt plant. The five-year deal will be a rebate of about $320,625. The company is expected to create 35 full-time jobs by December 2016 and will spend the greater of 30 percent or $150,000 of supply and service expenditures with Fort Worth contractors.

• In another deal, MillerCoors Llc. received a 10-year tax abatement on up to 50 percent of the city’s taxes on the incremental value of business personal property for an expansion of the plant and a promise to spend at least 35 percent of expansion costs in Fort Worth and retain at least 555 full-time employees.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst

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