The Martha’s Vineyard Commission decided to raise base fees for developments of regional impact (DRIs) by 30 percent at Thursday’s weekly meeting — the first fee schedule increase in 16 years. Commissioners voted to raise the DRI application fee from $800 to $1,050.
The increase was based proportionately on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 40.08 percent since 2002. For example, $140.08 in 2018 would be equivalent to $100 in 2002, according to a revised memo for the fee review.
Commissioners also compared DRI fees from multiple towns on-Island and from the Cape Cod Commission.
Additional base fees for modification reviews, concurrence reviews, extensions, noncompliance reviews, postapproval monitoring, and preapplication reviews were approved by the commission.
The proposed fee schedule also included charging $100 per hour for any staff time beyond the first four hours, but that element was later exempted.
Commissioner Fred Hancock said he has no problem increasing fees for commercial developments and subdivisions, but some of the smaller things, like staff time fees, extension requests, and exemption requests are “nickel-and-diming people.”
“It seems like the big time is in the bigger projects,” he said. “If we are charging people for minor modifications, we run into the possibility that fewer people might be coming in; it could well be an unintended consequence.”
Commissioners voted to remove any mention of additional fees for staff time from the proposal, including staff time spent on minor modification and concurrence reviews, as well as applicant requests for meeting with staff members.
Hancock said an extension request does not take up much staff time, so it shouldn’t be necessary to charge a fee. For subsequent extension requests, Hancock said a fee should be imposed. His motion was defeated, and the $250 extension fee stood as is.
According to the memo, several commissioners suggested that it would be too sudden to raise the base fees in one step, and said phasing in the increase might be a reasonable solution.
Last year the commission brought in approximately $30,000 from fees.
DRI coordinator Paul Foley said 90 projects were reviewed in the prior fiscal year, but only 11 of those were full DRIs. “We were busy last year, but we really only charged those 11 projects that went through the full process,” Foley said.
Commissioner Jim Vercruysse said, “Everything that comes through here takes staff time. We thought it was really important to bring this up because it has been 16 years since it’s been upped.”
“I think it’s unfair that the towns are bearing the burden of all this,” he said. “Some of these projects take a lot of time and research, and some don’t.”
An additional fee was suggested for various levels of infractions for failing to comply with conditions. But since the compliance committee had not yet formed criteria for defining what is a minor, major, or egregious infraction, a final motion was passed that the fee for conditions found in noncompliance be set at $100 per infraction, no matter the level.
Commissioner Joan Malkin said, “Fees should recover the reasonable costs of doing the work.” She suggested having a subsequent review of the fee schedule in the relatively near future.
Commissioner Trip Barnes agreed. He suggested reviewing the fee schedule in six months instead of waiting a year for another review. “It may be way off,” he said.