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County commissioners put a lid on permit fees

Move will forego estimated $2.1 to $2.3 million in revenue

EUGENE: In a five to zero vote last week, the Lane County Board of Commissioners moved to not collect permit fees for people rebuilding after the Holiday Farm Fire. The fee waivers will be in effect for five years.

In explaining the waiver program, Land Management Divis-ion manager Keir Miller said, “The permits that would be waived would include all building permits, including electrical inspections, mechanical permits, anything associated with replacement of a dwelling, as well as associated septic permits for on site sanitation systems that may be required.”

Miller said the front end land use permitting fees were to be waived as well. “That would include the land use review of the site plan and any preliminary permits that may be required, including the floodplain development permit, fill permit, and initial riparian declaration permit.” However, permits would still be needed.

A lot of the structures that were lost upriver, referred to as temporary hardship manufactured homes, would have fees waived too. In addition, the program would apply to both owner occupied and rental vacation homes.

“Finally,” Miller said, “the program would be retroactive, meaning that anybody who’s applied for a building permit and paid a fee since the fire would be qualified for reimbursement and we would reimburse requests for permits paid that qualify under this program.”

There had been some talk at a number of public meetings, some people had voiced concerns about whether or not they would be able to rebuild along streamsides. The measure approved on April 7th includes, “Properties regardless of whether or not they’re to be replaced in their riparian area. And also it would waive fees for floodplain development permits.”

There had also been concerns from environmental and water quality protection groups about whether the county was incentivizing development in these sensitive areas.

“I absolutely understand the incentive package that they’ve put in place to find ways in which people might be willing to move a little bit further away from our waterways,” said East Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch. “However, and I would like to explore that further, if there’s ways that we could possibly create those incentives in an alternative fashion.”

Buch went on to say, “I do want to just remind people, that people who lost their homes, out of no fault of their own may live in these areas. And I think they deserve a right to be able to rebuild in the location which they originally lost their home, it would be wonderful to try to find ways in which that is more ecologically sound. But I don’t want to put that in as a hurdle for them to rebuild where their original home was that they never intended to rebuild. And they would have probably lived there for many, many years after them or another family after that.”

Voicing another concern was North Eugene Commissioner Pat Farr. He was concerned about people who may have had a property owner’s permission to live on a property in a non-permanent dwelling.

“We know this,” Farr said. “We don’t know how many. And we don’t know how we’re going to respond to those folks who have lost their homes.”

Farr said it was important to think about things like homelessness. “We do have people who are homeless due to this who have no recourse that we have prescribed at this point,” he noted.

Jay Bozievich, the West Lane Commissioner, said that even with the waiver of fees, people could still be frustrated by the amount of time filings could take. “I’m greatly concerned about as submittals go in, and it’s sometimes months before somebody hears back that their submittal is incomplete,” he said. “And then there’s a back and forth to try to get to a complete submittal is taking long periods of time. I realized some of that is COVID related.”

Bozievich said despite adding more staff,” We’ve got to do something about this in general, because we’re talking about a department that’s more than doubled in the last seven years.”


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