By Alex Bridges
Churches in Shenandoah County can receive rebates on certain fees on some improvements to their buildings.
But the county may reconsider giving rebates at all after the Board of Supervisors approved two substantial refunds this week.
The board granted a rebate request for $3,914.18 to Antioch Church of the Brethren, 23502 Senedo Road, Woodstock, which had applied for a sanctuary addition and remodeling project.
The church sought a rebate for the entire amount of the building permit, according to a June 25 letter from its chairman and trustee, Norman L. Kerber, to the board. Kerber states they requested the rebate because the church is a non-profit.
Liberty Baptist Church, 29110 Old Valley Pike, Strasburg, sought a rebate of $1,054.58 in fees paid for permits issued for an addition to its sanctuary. Additional fees paid to the state Department of Health and a levy associated with erosion and sediment control could not be waived, according to county officials.
"Like I said, I don't think it's come, since I've been on the board, even one [request] and we got two at the same time to rebate those," said board Chairman Conrad Helsley, citing requests of more than $500. "But of course that just never occurred and when it did occur we thought 'well maybe we need to have an upper limit here' because the building and code division is basically a business and we like them to be a self-sustaining business."
Helsley noted the board has asked that county officials and supervisors revisit the issue of rebates. Officials also plan to look at how other localities address rebates, if offered.
"But these were large renovations and they cost considerably more and then the only option there was to bring it back to the county and of course their thinking was that will be rebated," Helsley said. "If we're going to automatically rebate it no matter what it is, then it doesn't really need to come to the board. But maybe we ought to evaluate whether we do it at all."
Helsley acknowledged that building costs, especially those for large-scale projects, have increased in the six years since the board set the rebate policy.
A resolution approved Aug. 22, 2006 set forth a policy and guidelines to refund certain fees associated with the issuance of a building permit for community organizations providing non-profit public service to the community, according to county information.
The policy allows the waiving of fees less than $500 by the Shenandoah County building official, and fees in excess of $500 by request of the Board of Supervisors.
As Brandon Davis, director of community development, explained, the county collects fees in an effort to help offset the cost of running the building inspections program.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org