Isle of Wight charging COP for permits

Published 1:25 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County Christian Outreach builds about three or four wheelchair ramps a year.

In the past, the charitable consortium of churches got a waiver on building and zoning permit fees to defray the cost of the project. Regulatory costs were thus zero.

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That changed in August.

Christian Outreach was notified shortly after the Board of Supervisors made a policy change that it would now be required to obtain the permits and pay the fees, said Mike Wilda, who heads up projects for COP.

All that could change Thursday, when the Board is scheduled to consider a change to the new policy, based on a complaint from Christian Outreach, allowing a waiver for the construction of wheelchair ramps. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The fees runs about $115, adding to the cost of building the wheelchair ramps, which usually run about $1,000 to $1,500 for materials, Wilda said.

It also requires volunteers to take additional time, sometimes up to two hours, to go to the courthouse and obtain the permit, he said.

It’s not so much the money, but the principal of the matter, Wilda said.

“Why would government make it hard? … Maybe that’s why (Donald) Trump got elected (president). Government is too involved,” he said.

“If we have to pay that fee it’s going to really hurt us.” said COP President Barbara Stafford

Wilda said he talked to Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice, who offered to revisit the issue at an upcoming meeting.

Looking back, Grice regrets not challenging the policy proposal.

“I feel badly about it and should have challenged it. I will see that it’s corrected,” said Grice, who added that COP does this work for free and does not seek to make a profit.

In 2015, there were six waivers for Christian Outreach and two waivers for churches to build ramps, with the total cost of the building permit waivers being $642, said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

That figure does not include a zoning permit fee, which is separate from a building permit fee. A building permit fee is based on the value of the project. A zoning permit is $35, and brings the average per-ramp fee to something over $100.

The Board passed the new waiver policy in August after former interim County Administrator Sanford “Sandy” Wanner received a phone call from an elderly resident asking for a waiver for a church to install a railing at her house.

According to Wanner, the historic avenue for obtaining a waiver was making a call to the county administrator. He decided a change was necessary and proposed that waivers only be granted for county projects, those funded by Community Development Block Grants or other county-administered grant programs and repairs or rehabilitation on properties damaged by natural disasters.

There will be minimal financial impact on the operating budget, Wanner said.

A staff report stated it was similar to policies in neighboring localities.

There was no discussion by the Board and the policy was adopted.

Christian Outreach, founded in 1991, serves needy residents in Isle of Wight County in a variety of ways, such as home repair, food pantry, dental assistance, emergency assistance and more.  {/mprestriction}