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Commission reviews new fee schedule

Lower fees, streamlined Measure 37 process goal

   A new, lower fee schedule for processing Measure 37 claims was considered by the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners at its Dec. 8 meeting.
   Ballot Measure 37, passed Nov. 2, requires state and local governments to pay property owners -- or forego enforcement -- when certain land-use restrictions reduce property value.
   Rather than charging $250 for a preliminary review to see whether or not a claim is valid, the county is looking at a $100 fee for a consultation.
   The consultation would help property owners determine whether it was a state or local restriction that may have affected their property's value.
   "We would go over some of the basic information and help them fill in gaps," said Community Development Department Director Chris Gannon. "They would then proceed to the Measure 37 process, and the $100 would be credited toward future fees."
   Gannon presented two alternative fee schedules. Under the first, processing fees would be the same as application fees for the proposed use prior to the passage of Measure 37, plus a deposit of $300 for legal review.
   Those who refused or opted not to pay the claim submittal fee would be billed for actual costs. A deposit, equal to the applicable fee, would be required as a draw-down account.
   Under the second alternative, requests for waivers would be charged a $500 deposit against actual costs, and claims for compensation would be charged a $1,000 deposit against actual costs incurred by the county.
   Last week, the county considered a tiered plan, ranging from $250 to $2,500.
   "I think I'm leaning towards a hybrid of using alternative 1 for waivers, and alternative 2B for compensation," said Commissioner Mary Zemke.
   County Counsel Jacki Haggerty suggested that the county only look at waiver claims and leave the more complicated compensation claims for the Circuit Court.
   "If the heart of the issue for somebody is compensation, then file a claim in Circuit Court, but first go through the land-use process, get a denial, go through the board and ask for a waiver, and, if they still get a denial, then they can file a Circuit Court case," said Haggerty.
   In the Circuit Court, landowners must prove a reduction in value. "There's a huge burden of proof," she said. "I would not want to represent landowners going into court. We're talking about a very expensive process."
   If the county lost the case and was forced to pay compensation, Haggerty noted, "the constitutional debt limitation is $5,000."
   On Tuesday, Gannon said that the latest plan is to have flat fees for the Measure 37 process -- evaluating the claim and developing a report for the board of commissioners. For example, a nonrefundable fee of $300 might be charged for evaluation of a single dwelling, or $500 for evaluation of a subdivision.
   The commissioners would listen to the claimant's case, and review the planning department's report, and render a decision.
   If the commission decided to waive the regulation, the claimant would proceed with the traditional application process and fees, Gannon said.
   If the commission decided against a waiver, the claimant would have the option of filing a claim in Circuit Court.
   "We're still refining our numbers and our process," said Gannon.
   The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners will again consider procedures for processing Measure 37 claims at its next meeting Wednesday, Dec. 22.