POA asks Díhead to re-think fees, costs
By Dwayne Bremer
Feb 15, 2013, 17:22
The Diamondhead Property Owners Association on Thursday asked the city council to reconsider building department fees and other costs associated with residential and commercial development.
The city council met Thursday in a work session to discuss several matters of business. The council could not take any action at the session because it was not a regularly scheduled meeting.
POA Vice-President John Yarborough on Thursday presented the city council a letter from the POA board of directors, saying among other things that Diamondhead's current rate schedule is not in line with other communities on the Gulf Coast.
He also questioned rates with the Diamondhead Water and Sewer District, which is outside the control of the city council.
"This is to advise you of a significant concern that the POA board believes can and will adversely impact our community," Yarborough said. "This concern is in regard to the building permit fees established by the city."
Yarborough said the POA recently researched building fees in several surrounding communities.
The research found that Diamondhead's fees are much higher for building costs.
Based on an evaluation of a $200,000 property, the building permit fee in Diamondhead would be $1,727, the letter said.
In Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Biloxi, the fee would be slightly more than $900 and in Slidell, the fee would only be $361, the letter said.
In addition to higher permit fees, inspection fees in Diamondhead are much higher also, Yarborough said.
Diamondhead has yet to form its own building department. Currently, building issues are being outsourced to local company Carrigee Consulting.
Mayor Chuck Ingraham said the city council is aware of questions regarding the rates and will work to address them.
"We have some concerns," Ingraham said. "We want to make sure that we are not an impediment to development. We want to have our rates in line with what is reasonable."
Councilman Dianne Ackerman said the city council has already begun gathering information and may consider changing the rates.
"We pursued this about three weeks ago," she said. "It is just going to require a little bit of time. If we make a change, it needs to be on solid facts."
City Manager Richard Rose said Friday that the city is looking into commissioning a study to further determine the need for a building department, costs and risk assessments, and other information.
In other business, the council discussed the possibility of creating a "smoke free" ordinance and current rules regarding door-to-door campaigning.
Kim Hart of Mississippi Tobacco Free updated the council on its recent drive to make Diamondhead a smoke free community.
The city has already adopted measures to ban smoking on city property, but the new policy could ban smoking from all businesses and public sites.
Last year, Gulfport enacted a city-wide smoke free ordinance; however, it does allow for special exceptions for some bars and restaurants.
Hart said her group recently held two public forums, but only about 50 people showed up. Her group has also been circulating a petition.
"Most of the comments so far have been for going tobacco free," she said.
Council members did not commit to the idea and said they wanted more public opinion before making a decision.
"We want some more community input," Ingraham said. "We have been getting emails, but I have not received overwhelming comments one way or the other.
Councilman Hank Holcomb said he would like to prepare a draft of the ordinance and ask the public for comments.
One idea is to use the city's website or "e-blast" to circulate information, officials said.
On the question of door-to-door campaigning, Councilman Ernie Knobloch asked if the current rules restricting it apply since the city has incorporated.
When Diamondhead was formed, covenants attached to properties prohibited outside solicitation and door-to-door campaigning.
During the county elections in 2012, a candidate caught going door-to-door was asked to leave Diamondhead, officials said.
Since then, the POA has transferred all of the roads in the city.
City Attorney Bragg Williams said it would be prudent for the city council to look into the matter for the upcoming city elections.
"Perhaps some research should be done," Williams said. "Restricting political speech can come with consequences. We need to be careful."
Knobloch said he did not mind the current rules against door-to-door campaigning.
"My feeling is we should just go with it the way it is," he said.
One member of the audience also chimed in, saying since all of the candidates are Diamondhead residents, than they all have agreed to the covenants.
"They would probably get less votes anyway if they went door-to-door," he said.
The council will meet again on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The council will first convene at the country club and then recess the meeting to go to city hall at 500 Diamondhead Circle.
Ingraham said that it is necessary because of pre-advertised meeting announcements, but after this month, all meetings will be scheduled at city hall.