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The Valley Breeze: Lincoln changes building permit fee structure

By JESSICA BOISCLAIR, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

LINCOLN – As part of a settlement agreement with the Rhode Island Builders Association, town officials have amended their permit fees, making them more comprehensive and less expensive for builders.

Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond said along with paying $150,000 toward the settlement, the town also agreed to apply a different standard for its permit fees.

This standard, which applies for new construction in town, coincides with the International Code Council’s building code.

Roger Pierce, the town’s building official, said the Building Department would use a chart published by the ICC to determine the building fee for a new home or commercial structure.

Almond said that people seeking a building permit, plumbing permit and electrical permit in the past would pay a separate fee for each, causing a financial burden on contractors.

Under the newly amended ordinance, however, builders and contractors would only pay one fee but receive the permits needed for a new structure.
Pierce said the ICC puts out an updated chart every two years to help towns determine how much to charge for permit fees.

He said each new home or commercial building is different, but the permit fee is found by multiplying the building’s gross area, the square foot construction cost, which is found in the ICC chart, and the permit fee multiplier.

According to the ICC’s website, the permit fee multiplier is the “total annual construction value” within the year divided by the “Building Department’s budget expected to be provided by building permit revenue.”

“Before this change, that fee would be separate,” said Pierce. “You’d pay that and then pay the other fees for plumbing and electrical.”

While people constructing new buildings will notice the biggest difference, Pierce said, a fee for repairs or alterations was changed as well.

He said anybody having more than $10,000 worth of work done must pay a fee of $201 plus $8 for each additional $1,000 – rather than $10 for each additional $1,000.

The town of Lincoln, along with Cranston and Warwick, had originally settled a class action lawsuit with the Rhode Island Builders Association after contractors said they were overcharged for building permit fees for single-family and residential condominiums.

According to a state statute, building fees collected by the town cannot exceed the cost of running the department.

Almond previously said the town settled but did not agree they had done anything wrong because it is nearly impossible to predict how many houses will be built in a certain year.

Because of this, Almond said, the town has agreed to work alongside the General Assembly to create a more uniform permit system for contractors.

He said this is a statewide initiative implemented by the General Assembly, but the program is “far from finalized.”

“This is a push by some of the legislators to try and improve our business environment,” he said. “People think Rhode Island is too regulated and they are trying to find more uniform programs for cities and towns.”