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Greene County board considers fee increases

Planners might charge local governments, developers more to cover shortfall.

New development could get more expensive in Greene County.

The Regional Planning and Coordinating Commission of Greene County could face a funding shortfall before the end of the year that might trigger a fee increase.

RPCC Executive Director Stephen Anderson denies the commission will run out of money, but RPCC anticipates increased membership fees for villages, townships, cities and the county as well as increased subdivision review fees and charges for services that are currently free, he said.

“The RPCC is a viable community asset,” Anderson said. “I believe the commissioners will come together with solutions on how to fund the organization.”

The county planning commission helps developers and government officials navigate the land development process in unincorporated areas in the county. The organization provides professional planning services for member cities, townships and villages. That could include help developing land-use plans for members, assigning addresses in unincorporated areas or making zoning recommendations.

The planning commission is scheduled to discuss subdivision and membership fees at its meeting Tuesday. The commission is also scheduled to meet with county commissioners to discuss the issue during an Aug. 7 work session.

“The commissioners don’t want to shut anything down,” said Greene County Commissioner Tom Koogler, who is also an RPCC executive board member. “We want to find a way to make it a win-win for everybody involved. The commissioners writing a check for $180,000 makes us losers.”

Koogler said there has to be a better way for the planning commission to allocate expenses and distribute costs.

The planning commission, which is operating with a $190,326 budget this year, is primarily funded through fees from its membership — three cities, four villages and 12 townships.

According to the planning commission bylaws, membership fees are calculated based on population. Larger populations pay higher fees. Members currently pay 15 cents per person.

If regional planning increases fees, it would come at a time when many local governments have tightened their budgets to offset cuts to Ohio’s local government fund. Municipal officials have cited concerns that smaller jurisdictions would not be able to handle a fee increase.

“It’s really tough to pass those costs on to the local jurisdictions,” said Sugarcreek Twp. Administrator Barry Tiffany.

Tiffany pointed to a small increases in residential development, but said that type of development “doesn’t really add a lot to the coffers.”

“So funds are tight anyhow, and to ask us to pay additional is really a bitter pill for them to ask us to swallow,” he said.

The bylaws also require the county to pay “seven times the contribution rate” of the other members.

According to planning commission data, annual membership revenue held relatively steady at $223,988 between 2004 and 2007 before peaking at $235,140 for two years starting in 2008. Since 2010, membership revenue has consistently dropped each year hitting an all time low last year with $102,208.07 – marking a 54 percent drop compared to 2004.

Declines in membership revenues were triggered by Fairborn’s decision to withdraw its membership in 2010. The city, the third largest city in the county, no longer pays membership fees, but has continued involvement as a non-voting member of the planning commission.

In 2011, Beavercreek, the largest city in the county, withdrew its membership.

Beavercreek and Fairborn city managers said the need to reduce expenses caused them to rescind their memberships.

“Our planning staff was providing the same services available through Greene County regional planning,” said Beavercreek City Manager Mike Cornell.

The impact of Beavercreek and Fairborn’s membership cancellations was magnified because it also reduced the county’s membership fee.

At least one developer has said an increase in subdivision fees would not necessarily cause him to take his development projects elsewhere.

“There’s a definitely a point to where the development cost component is a deterrent, “said Jerad Barnett president and CEO of Synergy/Mills Development Companies — one of the largest developers in Greene County. “…Typically your permit fees and zoning fees, in our world, are not going to make or break a project.”

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