Developers pushing back on proposed hikes to city fees

Charlotte developers and real estate professionals are pushing back against a slate of proposed fee increases that City Manager Ron Carlee has proposed as part of a plan to fill the city’s budget gap.

The Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition sent a letter to Charlotte City Council, Carlee and other top staff with a message Tuesday: If you want to charge us more, give us better service. REBIC, which represents commercial, multifamily and single-family developers, said the proposed increases will make it more expensive to develop in Charlotte than other cities.

Carlee’s proposed budget would increase certain fees developers pay to recover 100 percent of the cost of providing those services, and add new fees as well. For example, there would be a $580 subdivision sketch plan review added for developers filing plans for a subdivision, and increase some existing fees, such as for a rezoning petition.

Such increases would add $1.4 million in revenue in fiscal year 2016. The city’s budget hole is almost $22 million, much of that caused by the legislature’s repeal of the business privilege license tax cities could formerly charge.

But REBIC, led by executive director Joe Padilla, said the increases would make it harder to do business in Charlotte. For example, after the fee hikes, a rezoning application would cost $200 in Fort Mill and $5,000 in Charlotte, the group wrote.

“Expanding Charlotte’s property tax base is critical if the City is to continue to meet an expanding demand for services without significant increases in our tax rate,” wrote REBIC. “So it makes sense to support policies that attract real estate development rather than push it out towards other municipalities.”

But REBIC wrote that the industry would be willing to consider “moderately higher regulatory fees” if they were tied to specific improvements developers are seeking. Those include faster reviews of plans, better coordination between separate city departments and creation of a feedback process for “continued assessment and enhancement of service levels in development plan review and inspections.”

“Without the assurance that improvements like these will be implemented within a specific timeframe, our industry will continue to oppose any regulatory fee increase proposed in the current budget, as we would simply be paying more for the same level of service,” wrote REBIC.

Charlotte City Council is scheduled to discuss and hold straw votes on the budget at 3 p.m. Tuesday. You can watch online here.

Portillo: 704-358-5041;

Twitter: @ESPortillo