New state law prompts Minot’s review of building inspection fees

Minot city officials will be reviewing building permit fees in light of a state House bill signed into law by the governor Wednesday.

The new law that takes affect in August prohibits cities from charging more for building inspection fees in their extra-territorial areas than charged within their boundaries.

A statement issued by the City of Minot noted the city will have to assess how to adjust its fees going forward.

“We’re deeply disappointed by the sole action of Representative Dan Ruby for making this local control matter a State issue,” Mayor Shaun Sipma said in the statement. “As was explained to the Legislature, the City subsidizes its planning and building permits fees with property taxes. Those in the ETA don’t pay property taxes and so the City imposed a surcharge to make up the cost difference. It was simply a reasonable effort to make sure the cost of our government is paid by those who access and utilize our services. We will be evaluating the fee increases needed for all impacted fees to recover the lost revenues that Mr. Ruby’s legislation now prohibits us from collecting.”

The bill passed the House 91-1 and Senate 36-10. Because it had been amended, the House voted again, 91-0, to accept the amendment. The Legislature had narrowed the bill’s focus to include just building permit fees, eliminating a provision stating cities cannot impose a more restrictive regulation on the extra-territorial area than within the city.

The bill was introduced at the request of residents in Minot’s extra-territorial area, which extends for two miles around the city. Patti Eisenzimmer of rural Minot, who spearheaded the effort, said it is a matter of fairness.

“We just asked to be treated equal. I just think it had to be done,” she said. “Thirty years is a long time to charge double for something that’s not justifiable.”

The Minot City Council had passed a resolution in July 1986 that provided for doubled fees. For instance, a residential building permit fee in the city is $5 per $1,000 of building value and in the extra-territorial area it is $10.

Eisenzimmer said her experience shows the importance of reaching out to legislators if issues can’t be resolved at the local level. She credited Ruby for seeing the bill through the Legislature.

“I thank him for his work on the bill and believing in the property owners,” Eisenzimmer said.

Minot legislators who voted against HB 1471 were Sens. Randy Burckhard, Karen Krebsbach, David Hogue. Voting for it were Sen. Oley Larsen and Reps. Larry Bellew, Jay Fisher, Jeff Hoverson, Scott Louser, Bob Paulson, Dan and Matthew Ruby and Randy Schobinger.

In addition to its argument that property taxes subsidize building inspections, the city’s position has been that higher fees in the extra-territorial area are necessary because of additional costs associated with inspecting properties farther out from the city. Additionally, the city has said it desires to discourage rural developments because infrastructure and densities often must be managed around those rural residents if they don’t wish to annex as the city grows.

Last fall when Eisenzimmer requested the city council reconsider its extra-territorial fees, the council declined to make a change.

Eisenzimmer said the fees have equated to taxation without representation. With the new law, she said, extra-territorial residents have a voice through property owners within the city, who have access to their elected officials to address future building permit fees that now apply to both.

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