Select Board approves building permit fee hike

Mar 22, 2021

Building permit fees in Dartmouth are set to increase after the Select Board approved a new fee schedule proposed by Building Commissioner Joe Braga at a meeting on March 22.

Braga told the board that both residential and commercial rates in town are below what other local municipalities are charging.

“The permit fees in the town of Dartmouth have not been changed since the year 2007,” he noted.

The new fees will go into effect starting July 1.

Fees are currently charged per square foot, with different costs and minimum fees for accessory buildings like sheds and garages, unenclosed spaces, and various alterations and repairs.

Currently the minimum fee for a residential development is $200 and for a commercial development is $275.

Braga proposed a new fee schedule that simplifies the process.

Anyone looking to develop will now be charged flat rates depending on the proposed cost of the project, with residential developments charged $8 per $1,000 in proposed costs and commercial development $10 per $1,000.

The new revenue brought in by the increase will go towards hiring a new building inspector as well as purchasing safety equipment for the department, Braga said.

He added that the time saved with a more streamlined process — along with the extra manpower — will help improve the department’s response time.

Construction is starting to climb again after last year, Braga noted, with both residential and commercial requests pouring in. 

“As of a week ago...we’d already issued 625 permits,” he said. “That’s a little over half of the permits we issued all of last year.”

“That’s gonna put a lot of demand on the building department,” he added.

Although his initial proposal would have seen both residential and commercial developers charged $10 per $1,000, members of the Select Board agreed that permits should be cheaper for homes.

Select Board Vice Chair Shawn McDonald noted that at the $10 rate, the average residential developer would see their fees double from the current cost.

“I agree with the standardized estimated construction costs across the board, I just think the residential construction costs should be lower,” he said. “I think that’s reasonable.”

As far as commercial fees, McDonald added, the new rates are in line with other nearby communities. “It’s not like Dartmouth is pricing businesses out,” he said.

“You don’t want to be overcharging the residents compared to the commercial,” agreed board chair Frank Gracie III. “Commercial are going to make money with their development or their building. Residents don’t do that, they just need to live in the building.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the new fee schedule.