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New fees for builders

Developers must pay $85 an hour for fire marshal review

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 07/03) - Developers now have to pay $85 an hour to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs for the review of building plans.

A review is mandatory for every structure (except single family dwellings) built and renovated in the NWT.

Until last month, the review was a free service provided by MACA. The fee kicked in April 1.

Debbie DeLancey, deputy minister of MACA, said the department has been reviewing its various fee structures for services since 1999 and decided this was an area that needed to start charging for service.

"We should be consistent," DeLancey explained.

The fire marshal is required by law to review building plans to ensure plans comply with national building codes.

"The process won't change," she said.

But the GNWT's intake of cash will. MACA expects to bring in $20,000 a year from this new fee.

"Most projects," said Delancey, "will only require a maximum of one or two hours of review."

"Unless you're talking about a multi-million dollar project. And even then it's never going to be more than a couple of thousand dollars."

According to the fire marshal, the fee will net much more than the MACA claims.

Fire Marshal Don Gillis said the more complicated a building's design the more time it takes to ensure compliance. Gillis could not say which kind of project has been more common for his staff in recent years. "We don't sort by design. If they come in, they come in."

But big mining developments North of Yellowknife were "hundreds of pages long," Gillis recalled. "That would take hundreds of hours."

Two hundred hours of work on one big project, for example, would net $17,000 for MACA.

DeLancey said that building inspections is "a reasonable area for the public to pay a user fee because we are providing a service," she said, adding, "this is not a big cash cow."

John Droog said he isn't worried about the fee. Droog is PCL Constructors Northern Inc.'s project manager.

He said while he didn't "understand the reasoning" behind MACA's decision to start charging a fee now.

"For the amount of time it would take, and for the information that it provides the owner, I really don't have a problem with it," Droog said.