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Atlas Twp. fees will remain for new businesses

January 19, 2011 - Don't look for a break on township fees for new businesses anytime soon.

The board of trustees repealed a consideration on Monday night that would waive site plan review fees estimated to be about $500-$2,500 per lot.

Supporters say in these tough economic times slashing fees makes it more attractive to come to the township and start a business. The fee schedule is necessary, say township officials, to offset the costs to the township.

"If I thought it would bring business into the township, then I'd approve it," said Shirley Kautman-Jones, township supervisor. "But it does not outweigh our costs."

Jim Beelen, member information services liaison for the Michigan Township Association, representing about 1,200 communities across Michigan, said that several legal issues should be considered with such a change.

"If the township waives fees for business property then what about building fees for new homes?" he asked. "The legal ramifications should be considered to cut one fee over another."

Beelen said the most common way to help area business by an municipality is via a tax abatement, but typically that apples to industry, not commercial property.

Rick Misek, township planning commission chairman, said it not right to make such cuts.

"The subsidy for a new commerce comes on the backs of taxpayers," he said. "Our fee structure was set up about 10 years ago and right now we (the planning commission) break even at best."

Last year, the township planning commission received $2,500 in fees and spent $12,000.

"Most legitimate businesses have no problem paying those fees. If some business wants to sign an agreement to hire workers and invest a couple million (dollars) in the township, then bring it on. But, over the past few years we've had a lot of stops and starts on new businesses coming into the township that has generated no money at all. Most legitimate business don't have any problem with paying the fees."

The income is needed for the township, added Misek.

"We are required to update the master plan every five years," he said. "It costs the township $25,000 to do a major plan revision—it's an unfunded mandate required by the state."

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