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Upper Saucon Supervisor Questions Land Development Fees

At a recent Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisor Dennis Benner questioned the township's director of community development—Sharyn Heater—about how land development fees assessed to developers are calculated.

At a recent Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisor Dennis Benner questioned the township's director of community development—Sharyn Heater—about how land development fees assessed to developers are calculated.

"I'm not sure there's a correlation between the fee structure and the actual cost associated with it," Benner said.

Heater responded by explaining that fees are calculated based upon a comprehensive analysis conducted three years ago, which is reviewed on an annual basis.

For example, she said that "building permit fees got lowered this year because my analysis showed that we didn’t need to have the fees as high as they are."

When Heater conducted her comprehensive analysis, she said she considered what other municipalities assess developers.

Another reason for the comprehensive analysis was that the township had been using an outdated billing practice for calculating land development fees, she said.

Even so, she emphasized that the township's current fee schedule represents a "starting point" and involves estimations.

Board solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich said developers who feel a particular fee is unfair also have the right to challenge it.

"All we want is [what’s] fair," he said.

Benner then questioned Heater about whether she is paid, even if no building applications are submitted.

Heater said she is, and Benner then told her, "I'm not picking on you."

Supervisor John Gilda then became involved in the discussion, telling Benner, "the point that you’re trying to make—that’s there’s some large surplus being generated by our community development department—is erroneous."

He called that theory "ridiculous."

Benner responded by telling Gilda that the two of them would need to "agree to disagree."

Despite the disagreement, board chairman Steve Wagner said it was good that the board was discussing the township's land development fee schedule for 2014, which he said can be changed at any time in the future.

"I can think of a couple [fees] that stood out as unreasonable for what was involved," Wagner said.

Patch file photo

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