Increases to Eau Claire’s city-issued permits, licenses and fees were approved after a month of delays.
Over concerns that raising building permits could affect housing affordability, the City Council had delayed a decision in mid-November but voted 10-0 Tuesday to approve the fee changes as they were originally presented.
“I don’t think, in my opinion, they would affect housing prices that much,” Councilman David Strobel said.
Costs of building and plumbing permits increase under the approved fee schedule, but city staff cited two examples where they would only go up around 3 percent.
A 1,824-square-foot home with a standard garage built this year had $1,377 in fees for the numerous permits it needed from the city, which would increase a total of $39 next year. A nearly 3,000-square-foot home with large garage had $1,675 in permit costs, which would be $59 higher under 2019’s fee schedule.
Though the increased fees were approved, city leaders are discussing the potential for a waiver program for projects deemed to be “affordable housing.”
City finance director Jay Winzenz said the city would need to establish a clear rationale for such a program and create specific criteria for building projects that show a public benefit to earn an exception to fees that other new homes would pay in full.
Councilwomen Catherine Emmanuelle and Jill Christopherson both noted the city is currently studying the issue of affordable housing and results of that research would be needed to craft policy. Emmanuelle indicated a desire to move quickly on affordable housing policies, urging the city to draft legislation early next year.
In addition to building permits, other fees rising next year include public pool admission, ambulance bills, renting park pavilions and health inspections for certain businesses.
Also during the council’s regular Tuesday evening:
• Extending the city’s contract for employee health insurance into 2020 with Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire was approved in a 10-0 vote. The local insurance cooperative agreed to cap premium increases by 4 percent in 2019 and 2020.
• The Eau Claire YMCA signed a five-year agreement to use the city’s Fairfax Park Pool for its swim team’s summer practices and swim meets. The YMCA will pay $10,100 annually for the first two years and $10,700 yearly for the remaining years of the contract.
• Changes to city regulations of pawnbrokers and second-hand stores that sell jewelry or other goods were approved in a 10-0 council vote. The city also signed a three-year contract with Plano, Texas-based LeadsOnline to provide Eau Claire’s online pawn record-keeping system, replacing 14 years of using Minneapolis-based Automated Pawn System.
• A rezoning request to allow the former fire station at 559 N. Hastings Way to be turned into a community TV studio and offices for Valley Media Works was approved in a 10-0 council vote.
• A general plan and zoning for Banbury Place, 800 Wisconsin St., were changed by a 10-0 council vote to allow the mixed-use development to potentially turn part of its Building 17 warehouse into multi-family housing.