State law changes necessitate local UDO amendments

Published 9:00 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council held first readings for a pair of local ordinance amendments to comply with recent changes in state law.

The first amendment would modify the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to comply with House Bill 461, which takes away the ability to calculate building permit fees using valuation.

Currently, the city takes into account the contract costs of new construction when assessing building permit fees, so more expensive construction can be assigned higher fees. With the change the city will be required to base the fees on the construction type and a per-square-foot basis rather than how much the overall project costs.

What that means for developers is a multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art commercial facility would have the same building permit fees as an empty warehouse of the same size, regardless of how much it costs the city to inspect and issue the permits.

For homebuilders, it also means builder-grade and high-end homes are paying the same amount per square foot for their building permits.

“If you’re building it at an entry-level where maybe you’re using builder grade carpet and not real expensive finishes, is treated the same as one that’s built as a very high-end product with marble countertops and high-end finishes. So there are certainly some unintended consequences with the law,” said William Hart, City of LaGrange Building Official.

The state law goes into effect on July 1, so the city is expected to approve the change after a second reading at its next meeting on June 25.

The council also held a first reading for an amendment to update the method of appeal of certain city agency decisions.

City Planner Mark Kostial explained that there was a recent change in state law, which changes the writ of certiorari process to appeal agency decisions in favor of petition for review through State or Superior court.

The council also called for a public hearing for a third change in state law relating to public hearing requirements for halfway houses.

Kostial said that the state has repealed a portion of the zoning procedures law lengthening the public hearing period for halfway houses. The Board of Planning and Zoning Appeals recommended deleting a similar requirement in the city’s UDO. The proposed change will delete subsection 25B-553(e)(e) which states:

“When a proposed zoning amendment, variance or special use permit relates to or will allow the location or relocation of a halfway house, drug rehabilitation center, or other facility for treatment of drug dependency, a public hearing shall be held by the board of planning and zoning appeals on the proposed action. Such public hearing shall be held at least six (6) months but not more than nine (9) months prior to the date of final action on such zoning decision by the city council. The hearing required by this subsection shall be in addition to a public hearing otherwise required under this section. Such public hearing shall be noticed as required in this subsection and shall include a prominent statement that the proposed zoning decision relates to or will allow the location or relocation of a rehabilitation center.”

A public hearing for the proposed change will be held on July 9.