Going Up


This future storage facility is currently being built in Yankton County. After more than 15 years, the county’s building permit fees are being adjusted on Sept. 1, but some local officials fear the fees’ adjustments, ranging up to 500% higher, may inhibit growth in the county.

A lot has changed in Yankton County since Feb. 2, 2004.

Drivers still used the then 80-year-old Meridian Bridge to traverse the Missouri River between Yankton and Nebraska. Numerous businesses have come to the area and expanded in that time. The national economy suffered a major recession and subsequently recovered.

But one thing has remained the same — on that date, Yankton County adopted a new set of planning & zoning fees, and they have remained unchanged since.

That is until this coming Sunday (Sept. 1) when a new fee schedule, approved by the Yankton County Commission during its Aug. 6 meeting, officially goes into effect.

Commission chairman Dan Klimisch told the Press & Dakotan that the road to a new fee schedule started with the board’s decision to record each and every meeting.

"There’s a cost associated with that," Klimisch said. "It’s about $150 for a zoning and planning meeting and I think it’s $250 for a commission meeting. While we were doing that, we were trying to compile how much it actually costs to do a zoning and planning meeting. There’s obviously the cost of the recordings and there’s a cost of about $225 to pay each planning commission member."

He noted that each planning commission member can be paid $25 per meeting, but many commissioners do not take the compensation.

Klimisch said additional research was done on the cost of doing business in other facets of the office, be it researching information for a building permit or a conditional use permit.

"We discussed that as the Planning Commission and, unanimously, everyone on the Planning Commission back in June or May said, ‘We really need to look at raising our fees not to generate income, but just to cover the cost of what a meeting is,’" he said. "If someone comes in for a deck, for example, under the old schedule, if it was $1,000 or less, we would issue them a permit and charge them $10. But if you look at the costs associated with generating that building permit, the time and the research, it was costing us at the county more than $10 to do that, so we were actually losing money issuing the permit for things like that."

The new fee schedule for building permits is as follows:

• Value to $1,000: $50 (Old: $10).

• $1,000 and above: $40 plus $5 per $1,000 in valuation. Under the old system, there were staggered permit fees up to $300,000 which had a $100 permit plus $1 per $1,000 over $300,001.

• A post-construction fee of $500 (Old: $100).

Additionally, miscellaneous fees have also risen:

• Variance: $450 (Old: $100)

• Conditional Use Permit: $300 (Old: $100)

• Rezone/Amendment: $450 (Old: $150)

• Special Meeting: $750 (Old: $350)

• Plat Proposal: $100 (Old: $30)

The commission also scheduled two new miscellaneous fees:

• Right-of-Way: $150

• Entrance Application: $150

Klimisch said the county looked into what others in the region are doing for their fee schedules.

"We researched a lot of the adjacent counties with Clay and Bon Homme," he said. "When I talked to all of the zoning people, they said, ‘Our fees are way too low and we need to raise them.’"

With its last update being in 2012, Clay County’s current fee schedule is:

• Up to $1,000: $25

• $500,000 and up: $525

However, Yankton County’s new fee schedule is being met with some concern.

Yankton Area Progressive Growth (YAPG) CEO Nancy Wenande told the Press & Dakotan that the amount the fee schedule was raised came as a surprise.

"I was surprised to see that there was such a dramatic increase from the rates that were previously set to what they’re going to be on Sept. 1," Wenande said. "It’s between a 300-500% increase on a lot of these prices, which seems a bit steep for one singular increase."

Having served on the Yankton City Commission, Wenande said she’s aware of the need to adjust fee schedules as the county’s situation changes.

"Since these fees have not been increased since 2004, I can see that there was a need for an increase," she said. "But I feel that with such a significant increase, it’s making it cost-prohibitive. I do think they could’ve had a stepped-up process to get to where they need to be, or provide an opportunity for more public input before those rates were set and brought before the commission."

Klimisch said that a new piece of technology made it difficult to stagger the fees.

"We are the first county in the state working on online software for permitting," he said. "We had to calculate a fee structure that could be incorporated into that software system. Originally, we were going to have a fee structure that was more similar to the one that we had — originally we discussed a $50 per $1,000 up to $100,000 and then it was going to be a $100 fee, but when we started talking to the people who were going to build that into the program, that would make it more cumbersome."

Wenande said YAPG has received feedback from concerned developers throughout the county.

"I have had comments from a couple of industry leaders who are looking to do development in Yankton County that say the cost of these fees are excessive," she said.

She added that there wasn’t any direct outreach from county officials about how the new fee schedule would be structured.

"No one reached out to me prior to this or alerted us that the fee increase was going to be so significant," she said.

Klimisch said there was ample time for feedback over the spring and summer.

"We talked about this for 2 1/2 months at four different County Commission meetings and a Planning Commission meeting, and not one person mentioned that that was too high," he said. "I’ve had a lot of input that our fees are too low."

Wenande said she could see the changes having a huge impact on the county’s ability to attract new businesses or expand existing operations.

"For large industrial use, the way the fee schedule is set could definitely be prohibitive to industry wanting to locate in Yankton County," she said. "The increase of $5 per $1,000 in valuation on the fee is really excessive for an extremely large industrial user."

She said there are options to remedy any potential adverse impacts.

"If the commission is willing to create a waiver or a decreased fee depending upon the size of the entity, I would encourage them to consider that option," she said. "There are some large users that would probably not be interested in locating in Yankton County based upon the cost of that fee."

Klimisch said that it’s hard to fathom larger developments not being able to cover permitting fees.

"If somebody’s building a $100,000 house, I would think they could afford the $550 for a permit to do that," he said. "What we’re trying to do is have some of the fees that we charge simply pay for the services that we’re providing."

He added that he doesn’t see the new fee schedule being an inhibitor of development.

"With a $200,000 facility, is $1,000 going to make or break it?" he said. "I really don’t think so."

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(4) comments


Wake up people there is a cost to doing business. The commission did the right thing. Just because past commissions carried out their tasks without any thought to the business management of things does not mean a 500% rate increase is not acceptable. The commission did what they had to do.


Wowzer, I'm not even in Yankton county. When I read this increase in fees I was flabbergasted. That is quite a jump. And when I kept reading I was getting more angry. Seems that the commissioners think If you build a house your rich. A lot of these people have to scrimp and save to build a house and your cost of a building permit is just adding to their frustration. They will probably still build their home with payments being higher or taking longer to pay it off. I think your rates are outrageous. Glad I'm not building anything in your county.

Local Resident

Bravo and kudos to the county commission, it was past due for updating!

I have a suggestion for the county commission if they are in a mood to negotiate with YAPG: you can lower the cost of the building permits simply by eliminating contributions to them and a number of other 501c-3's that are tax-exempt and provide no tax support for county, city, and schools in Yankton county. Alas, problem solved. It seems to me that economic development should not revolve around a building permit. How do you lower the cost of a permit? Take some of the frills out of the construction costs. Not all will admit it, but the fact of the matter is All new construction has frills in it and common sense allows you to remove those things that are not absolutely necessary. Now let's think about building permits; do building permits get fudged? How can one house in a neighborhood cost $10,000 to re-shingle and a similar house next door is $500 for the same work. Is there fudging on building permits? You bet. Something tells me lots of work on lots of buildings is being fudged and history tells me the fudging will continue with the new rates, but at least we are getting a bit more particularly from those who have historically been dishonest.

To tell me development opportunities will be lost due to cost of building permits is a scare tactic, and probably an indication that the developer who refuses to build because of it won't be successful anyway, in addition you have to wonder what kind of corporate citizen that builder would be if they chose not to build because of permits costs.

YAPG seems a bit distraught over the CC decision, assuming that development will cease with this increase. Let's look at just a few of the tools they have at their disposal that are already costing the taxpayer: TIFs, Discretionary Tax Formula, a promise of local sales tax if a business is to build in a certain area, and revenue bonds just to name a few at the local level. At the state level there are certain tax refunds made available as well as a multitude of other incentives available in the GOED, as well as in other departments of state government, and no INCOME TAX.

That all said it is interesting to note this is all done in the name of development and expanding the property tax base to reduce all of our property taxes. Interesting to note none of the above works as property taxes continue to rise. schools, cities, towns, townships, and counties continue to pass opt outs and continually lobby for more money because they just don't have enough. If economic development was working that would not be the case. You cannot continue the proven failed programs of the past. Taxpayers are tired of the frittered talk and want to see results in reduced property tax, but of course they won't see those results because there are no facts or scientific evidence to back it up. All development tools are a failure and will continue that way as is evidenced. Using the cost of a building permit by YAPG is a total cop-out.

It has been said time after time, "anybody can give something away, it takes a salesman to sell it or yourself", Maybe it is time for YAPG to attempt to sell our community rather than to see how many of the taxpayers assets they can give away.

It is time for the county to quit giving gifts (in more ways than one) and putting that money into roads and bridges, without putting an additional burden on the taxpayer, and that is exactly what they are attempting to do with their recent action. It is time for everyone to pay their way.


I agree to raising the rates but I also feel they went a little over board as well.

Yankton County Cannot Go South for Revenue!. With a portion of land on the SD side is still Nebraska yet in Yankton County.

I guess we'll see how things go from here.

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