towns routinely use technical consultants to provide expertise in evaluating
various permits, licenses or other applications in which special expertise is
required. Applications in which outside consultants are used include: residential
and commercial building permits, cell tower/water tank permits, grading and
utility permits or similar requests.
situations, while the municipality hires and directs the outside consultant,
the fees charged by that consultant are paid by the applicant as an added
charge to the permit itself. Such consulting fees routinely run into the
thousands or tens of thousands and much more depending on the complexity of the
permit application. The amount of these fees often is a surprise to the applicant.
If the permit applicant objects to the amount of the fees charged by the city’s
consultants, they are not able to obtain their permit.
During the 2019 Legislative Session, Chapter 27, was signed into law by Governor Walz. Starting August 1, this new law allows applicants to request that a city provide a written nonbinding estimate of the consulting fees. If the applicant requests this estimate, the application shall not be deemed complete until the city has:
provided an estimate to the applicant;
received the required application fees, as specified by the city;
received a signed acceptance of the fee estimate from the applicant; and
received a signed statement that the applicant has not relied on the estimate of fees in its decision to proceed with the final application from the applicant.
Minnesota Statute § 15.99 requires that cities must approve or
deny written land use applications within 60 days (the “60-Day Rule”). An application is not complete for purposes
of the 60-Day Rule until all four requirements of Minnesota Statute § 471.462 are met.