Almanac

News - September 11, 2013

Atherton adopts new fees for town services

• Some fees will dramatically increase, others will go away or be reduced.

by Barbara Wood

In November Atherton residents will see changes in the fees they pay the town for everything from a building permit to getting a copy of a police report. A new fee schedule was approved by the City Council at its Sept. 4 meeting.

The new fees are designed to assign all the costs of town services to those using the services and were developed by consultants Capital Accounting Partners.

Some fees will dramatically increase, others will go away or be reduced, and many will stay the same.

In the end, the town hopes the new fees will reduce the amount the consultants say taxpayers had been subsidizing those who use town services — more than $83,000 for planning services, more than $35,000 for engineering services, more than $214,000 for building services, and nearly $23,000 for park services.

"The consultant that was hired did a very thorough job," said Mayor Elizabeth Lewis. "I note that many fees have gone down."

Councilman Cary Wiest said the town's goal "is to break even," adding: "We're trying to please as many people as possible."

Examples of fees

The study compared fees with those of other Bay Area communities and found Atherton's new fees will be lower than most, especially when compared with Woodside's.

As an example, building fees, which will be based on square footage and not the cost of construction, are estimated for an 8,000-square-foot house with a 4,000-square-foot basement to now be $28,332 in Atherton, $43,290 in Woodside, $37,026 Belmont, and $18,336 in Hillsborough.

The town plans to adjust the fees annually and will return the matter to the council next June, City Manager George Rodericks said.

Examples of some of the fees that have gone up are those for zoning ordinance and general plan amendment applications, which will double from $2,500 to $5,000 each. Solar panel permit fees will also double, from $250 to $500.

Driveway-inspection fees are going down, however, with the fee for a driveway with a culvert being reduced from $864 to $438.

Copies of police reports will also be less expensive. A copy without photos or audiotape will be only 25 cents, reduced from $18. For copies with photos and audiotapes, the fee is now $50 per hour, down from $106 per hour.

Fees for renting out buildings in Holbrook-Palmer Park will range from $400 for a half day of use of the Main House or Carriage House to $2,500 for a full weekend day's use of Jennings Pavilion. In addition, non-residents will be charged a 30 percent "administrative fee" when they rent park facilities, while residents are charged 15 percent.

Visit tinyurl.com/Fee-904 to see the fee schedule.

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