Fees For Third Plan Check

Dear Management Doctor:

I attended Pauls management course several years ago, and I seem to recall a suggestion regarding building permit fees in development departments. The suggestion was to place a limit on the number of reviews done for a permit submittal. For example, if a permit could not be issued after three submittals, then the permit would be closed and the applicant would be required to resubmit with the full complement of permit fees assessed. The advantages would be that applicants would be encouraged to be more responsible in their submittals, and the permit fees received would be commensurate with the amount of staff time spent.

Is my memory accurate? Do you know of any development departments that actually do this?

Bob Glees, PE, AICP
Village of Carol Stream

Dear Bob,

We occasionally run across communities that charge this extra fee. Options appear to be:

  1. Require submittal of a new permit. This may be a bit excessive.
  2. Simply develop a fee for subsequent plan checks.
  3. Do subsequent checks on a time and material basis.
I ask my CBO staff member for his experience and his response follows:
The City of Santa Rosa charged an extra fee for all plans that went into a fourth plan review process. The City of San Jose also used to do this as well as the City of Napa and there are a few others.

The reason these Cities did this was when the development activity was very high in their communities. There were certain developers and Architects/Designers that would submit very basic plans in order to get in line for the review process and then they would make changes to their plans during the plan review process. This would require the Cities to basically re-review these changed plans and almost start all over. The developers would then argue that the Cities should not do this since these plans or a version of these plans were already reviewed once or twice or even three times and they would not want to pay any additional plan review fees.

I think when the development community does things like this or when times are busy then these types of things happen and Cities need to do something to pay for their additional services provided.

HOWEVER during these slow times the Architects/Designers and Developers should be submitting complete projects. They will know what they plan to build and there should be no need to have to review the same set of plans more than three times. This DEPENDS a lot on which STATE we are talking about. In TEXAS, THEIR way of doing things is a lot different than other States. Their plan check process is a lot more relaxed than other States.

Unfortunately I do not have a national study on this. I hope some of our emailers that charge the extra fee will let me know.

The Management Doctor

Reader Responses

Fees in the State of California must be based on the actual costs of review. For that reason, we have been advised that absent a defensible fee study to support a realistic fee structure or a time-consuming administrative system for total cost recovery, a city tends to adopt a fee structure that subsidizes these multiple reviews. One of the consequences of that city action is often a lack of incentive to get it right.

Carol Dick, AICP, AIA

The City of Wilson, NC charges a new fee on third submittal.

Rodger Lentz

When I was at my previous employer, we had a lot of issues where plans would be reviewed but no one ever came in to get the permit, or they would change the plan to a completely different one and we would have to review a completely new plan (this was before the big building boom of the past few years). To address the problem, we instituted a $500 (minimum) plan review fee that was paid upon receipt of plans. After the review the $500 was deducted from the building permit fee, unless we had to perform multiple reviews or they changed the plan, in which case they paid the $500 again. That token fee, paid up-front, really cut down on plan changes and the number of plans we reviewed that never resulted in an actual permit. It also eliminated the problem of multiple reviews of the same plan with only minor modifications.

Russell Farnum
Algonquin, IL

This is an excerpt from Chapter 18, Kansas City Building Code, regarding plans review resubmittal fees:

(2) Resubmittal construction document review fees. When previously identified deficiencies remain uncorrected on subsequent submittals or when items certified on the Checklist for Building Permit Construction Document Submittal as being provided are omitted, a resubmittal construction document review fee shall be assessed at the time of resubmittal of the discipline. This fee shall be one eighth of the total permit fee for resubmittal deficiencies. The fee for certified checklist omissions shall be $67.00. Such resubmittal construction document review fee shall not apply as a credit toward the total fee when the permit is issued. Maximum resubmittal fee shall be as follows:
  1. One- and two-family dwelling plans $27.
  2. Other than one- and two-family dwelling plans $263
Plans examiners are required to contact the design professional when any resubmittal review fails in what is termed a review comment resolution meeting. This meeting or typically a telephone call is made to ensure that the design professional clearly understands the deficiency and may also serve to clarify the plans examiner's understanding of the design intent.


Rick Usher
Kansas City, MO

Having worked as a city planner in three different states, and in four cities of wide-ranging sizes in Texas, I would dispute the generalization in the Free Advice regarding plan checking that the process is a lot more relaxed in Texas than in other states. While every city has its own policies and procedures, I haven’t noticed a significant difference in the states where I’ve worked. In my experience, the formality of the review process has more to do with the size of the city and available staff than it does with what state it’s in. A large staff with many specialized positions in planning, inspections, and other departments operates entirely differently than a small staff with only one jack-of-all-trades qualified planner, one or two building inspectors, and one engineer who may or may not be in-house, etc. In any case, I can say with some authority that, as in other states, there are cities in Texas that are very rigorous in their plan checking and development review.

Dan Gibson, AICP

This is in response to the inquiry about limiting the number of revised submittals permitted under the same application fee – something like three strikes (reviews) and you’re out rule, and you get to pay again. This is to discourage woefully inadequate plans being submitted for review. Having been on the staff side of the counter, I can certainly attest to seeing submittals that were so inadequate that the review process became more like the design process, but …

Here’s the applicant’s view from the other side of the counter - What about jurisdictions that have a detailed set of submittal standards? Staff reviews submittals via unwritten and highly subjective and opinionated set of personal standards and often offers “suggestions” such as “why don’t you move this or add that, etc?" Or on the second review, staff comes up with a totally new set of requirements. This often requires the applicant to make endless modifications. Shouldn’t the applicant have some quid pro quo form of remuneration for this type of review process?

Just a reminder to the public sector world that the streets do not always run one way.

Connie Cooper, FAICP
Dallas, TX

We are bringing a revised fee schedule to our Board next week that will only cover additional fees for review of land use and zoning petitions. We are recommending that additional fees be charged for the second review and beyond on a graduated scale - $250 for the second review; $500 for the third; $750 for the fourth; and $1,000 for fifth and beyond.

We are not recommending a change for building construction plan review since permit activity is very low and most plans are deemed complete by the Building Official on the second submittal. However, we have many consulting planners and engineers that submit more than twice on rezones, special exceptions, and site development plans.


Vincent A. Cautero, AICP
Hendry County, FL

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