Planning Fees

Dear Management Doctor:

Do you have any comparative data on rezoning fees that Municipal/City/County Planning Departments charge for applications. We are in the process of reviewing the fees that we charge for rezones.


Dear Anonymous,

First of all, go to our website search engine and look under fees. There are five articles that may be of help.Unfortunately I don't have any good comparative data. In looking at your fees I suggest:
  1. Decide if you want to be full cost recovery.
  2. If you do, then you will have to calculate your actual costs.
  3. Full cost fees generally include not only planning's costs but those of participating departments.
  4. Given government's budget problems, many communities also add for external overhead, often running 30% or more.
  5. Full cost is likely to be much more than you are now charging. A few planning departments are full cost but most are 50% or less.
  6. Your elected officials will also want to see how you compare with others in your region. The regional comparisons are important. For example, California tends to be high. We are currently working in Barbados, which tends to be low.

Best wishes,
The Management Doctor

P.S. There is so much money for the applicant to make in a typical rezoning that the fee is almost irrelevant. What the applicant really wants is to knock a few months off the process. They are more than willing to pay for good service.

Reader Responses

The City of Gulfport, Florida, recently studied fees charged by the various jurisdictions located in our county, Pinellas County. The City wanted to raise its fees as it felt that our fees were lower than other jurisdictions. (Click here to see an Excel spreadsheet of our findings.)

Our Community Development Department provides one-on-one service from pre-application through adoption of the rezoning ordinance. The process involves a city staff site plan review committee, Planning and Zoning Board, and City Council. Council must approve two readings of the rezoning ordinance. The entire process can take up to 3 to 4 months depending upon submittal dates, legal advertising requirements, and the 2 readings of the ordinance.

Hopefully the spreadsheet can help others.

Michael Taylor
City of Gulfport

Here is our cost of development survey from a while back We will publish the results from last FY once I find some spare analyst time laying around. We are 100% cost recovery, as you remember, including fully loaded costs in and out of the department. Our Public Works staff completed a fee study of their development function that did a pretty good job of assessing full cost recovery.

I am looking for my chart I use at budget sessions about total costs and how much goes to the actual staff delivery the service vs. everyone and everything else. The chart makes the Budget Office and Finance Department staff very nervous, but I have found that shining a bright light on it has helped me get a much better overhead rate than other parts of the City. I will shoot it to you when I find which thumb drive I stuck it on.

The question I have been asking since doing that analysis is, what is an acceptable overhead rate? With government revenues shrinking all over, part of the pitch I have been making is to look at revenues and determine up front what % you are willing to divert to non-direct service up front and live within that amount in a scalable fashion. While my development staff has shrank by about 50% over the past couple years, the rest of the city organization was blissfully rolling as business as usual until this year.

Joseph Horwedel
City of San Jose

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