By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Building a house or updating your kitchen in Milton will become more expensive, but putting in a cell tower will really cost you.
On Monday night, the City Council instituted new fees for plan reviews on new home construction and certain renovations to existing homes. It also adopted fees for taxis, tree lovers and telecommunications companies.
The new fees are housekeeping measures the city had not addressed since it incorporated four years ago, said City Administrator Chris Lagerbloom.
"Any time we come up with a fee, we do our best to have the fee simply account for what it costs to issue the permit," he said. "If it doesn't do that, it becomes a tax, and that is illegal."
The largest new fees involve the city's new telecommunications ordinance passed in August. Companies will pay a $2,000 application fee, plus actual consulting costs up to $7,500. In addition, companies will pay an operating license fee of $1,000 per tower and $1,000 per antenna array. Finally, the city will charge a $250 legal processing fee and $50 administrative fee for lease applications.
Representatives from AT&T, Verizon Wireless and the Georgia Wireless Association opposed the fees when they were passed Aug. 2, insisting the companies could perform and certify many of the administrative functions.
Verizon spokeswoman Sheryl Sellaway said the new fees will ultimately be borne by the customers.
"We do object to these fees," she said. "Our towers are already licensed by the FCC. We see this as a revenue-generating device marketed by consultants."
Sellaway said Verizon is looking at its options relating to the new fees.
City planner Lynn Tully said the telecommunications fees are partly based on the costs for outside consultants to review a company's application. Some other cities handle applications internally, she said.
Alpharetta, for example, has its staff handle telecommunications applications. It charges no licensing fee, and its application fee is less than $100.
Many of the Milton fees established on Monday needed to be set, Tully said, because they were referenced in the city code.
The new plan review fee is $100 on home construction and some renovations. Residents will also now pay $5 for city signs showing an area as a "tree save" site.The city will also charge a $50 annual permit for taxis and a $50 annual permit fee for cab drivers. Until this fall, the city did not have an ordinance regulating vehicles for hire.
Mayor Joe Lockwood and Councilwoman Julie Zahner Bailey came up with a provision that fees should be monitored and reduced if and when costs go down.