Red Cross Disaster Relief truck is parked along a tornado ravaged Macready Avenue. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Dayton waives fees for tornado victims

The city of Dayton will waive the cost for building, zoning and demolition permits for tornado victims and will provide refunds to people who already paid the fees.

Dayton has created a Tornado Relief Program to assist with the economic recovery and rebuilding of areas that were hit by the destructive Memorial Day storm.

Dayton City Commission approved the fee suspension on Wednesday, but city officials say the program has been in development for weeks to help the more than 1,000 commercial and residential properties in Dayton that were damaged.

“The city is very concerned about being helpful wherever we can, and this is one tool that we have to provide a little bit of relief in terms of the cost of rebuilding,” said Keith Klein, senior development specialist with Dayton’s department of economic development.

Earlier this week, some groups helping with storm cleanup and tornado victims criticized the city for charging for demolition permits.

“There’s quite a few who have paid the fees and quite a few who can’t pay the fees, and so the houses are just sitting there because they don’t have the money,” said Steve Liles, lead coordinator with the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team, based in Vandalia.

PHOTOS: Tornado outbreak in Miami Valley

On Wednesday, Dayton City Commission approved a resolution allowing the city to waive fees and reimburse charges already paid for residential and commercial construction projects related to tornado damage.

Tornado victims still will have to follow the normal permitting process, but they will be able to sign and submit written applications for a fee waiver or reimbursement.

Under the program, people will not be charged fees for zoning certificates, applications for zoning variances or conditional uses, plan reviews, building permits, certificates of use and occupancy, building inspections and wrecking permits. City staff will review and decide whether to approve waiver applications, which must be submitted by the end of 2019.

Properties are eligible for the program if they are in a neighborhood identified as being impacted by severe weather and they are listed on the city’s tornado damaged property inventory list.

MORE: With thousands of buildings unlivable, tornado survivors seek alternatives

Fees depend on the size of the project, but they can be significant with larger and more complicated construction work, Klein said. Anecdotally, city staff believe only a small number of tornado victims have paid fees and are eligible for reimbursement, Klein said.

The city will take steps to try to ensure only eligible properties take advantage of the program and the cost savings from the lack of fees are passed onto property owners, he said.

On Tuesday, Liles told this newspaper that he heard the city might take action this week related to fees. But he said the action comes a “month late” for some people.

Liles said volunteers with the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team have worked in cities of all sizes following natural disasters but never has he ever heard of victims having to pay fees related to demolition costs.

City spokeswoman Toni Bankston said the city has been working on the program for weeks, but it took time to get it completed.

Commissioner Chris Shaw said, “I really applaud city staff and the organization in general for doing what is really a common-sense step to help folks who are in such desperate need of help.”

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