|9-A – 9-F
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: STREAMLINE PERMITTING PROCESS
The permitting process for building and construction permits is not uniformly administered and is unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming for permit applicants.
The following actions are recommended:- Integrate and coordinate the permitting approval process of other city agencies (e.g., Fire Dept, Health Dept, etc.) with that of HCD through inter-agency group meetings (enhanced over time by data links) to: (a) establish deadlines for permit approvals; (b) review procedural problems and opportunities; and (c) review and resolve the list of unresolved permit applications. If cost-justified, the City should consider moving toward a single permitting department and location similar to that used in Baltimore County.
– Develop written procedures for permit application review and approval, and monitor through a process that includes random audits to ensure consistent implementation. (The current process of waiver approvals by the Deputy Commissioner should be streamlined or eliminated.)- Require Building and Housing Inspectors to proactively ‘police’ non-permitted construction projects when they are performing their core functions. While inspectors were visiting their assigned sites, they should:
1. Visit construction sites in the surrounding area and record the addresses of these sites;
2. When back at HCD, check to determine if permits were pulled for the work at these sites;
3. Issue citations as necessary for work being done without permits; and
4. Conduct follow-up activities as needed.
This initiative could generate a significant amount of currently uncollected permit fees and avoid faulty construction work.
– Train inspectors and clerks on the permitting process. Focus training on: (a) written codes and procedures; (b) customer responsiveness; and (c) use of existing data network system to approve permit applications ‘on line.’
– For increased customer satisfaction, develop clear and simple brochures to inform citizens of required permits (e.g. home improvements, pet licenses, electrician’s licenses, etc.), the permit process, the responsible agency, its location and telephone number, licensing or permitting requirements, fees, time for approval, customer service telephone number, etc. Link these in electronic format to the City’s website.
– Randomly poll permit applicants about their experience in order to flag process problems. Provide each applicant with a questionnaire asking them to evaluate the process and how it could be improved. Tabulate responses and establish goals through regular review by HCD leadership.
– Deploy hand-held devices and install voice mail and call forwarding for building inspectors. (See recommendation 8-A ‘ 8-H.)
– In the future, consider locating all City permitting at one location. Baltimore County provides a good model.
Estimated Annual Impact:
Barriers to Implementation:
Developing written procedures for permit application review and approval could also be integrated into regular duties of existing staff. Thus, there should be no cost associated with this activity.
Proactive ‘policing’ of construction projects without permits could be done by building and housing inspectors as part of their regular duties and would, therefore, not have any cost impact.
Developing performance standards should be a normal supervisory responsibility and should not have any cost impact.
Training of inspectors and clerks
Development of one-week training includes:
Delivery of training includes:
Training participation includes:
Total training participation costs $34,560 (17)
Total training costs for development, delivery, and staff time
Publishing brochures explaining the permitting process $ 10,000
Surveying customer satisfaction could be done as part of existing staff’s regular duties and should not have any cost impact. Installing a ‘hotline’ so that the public could call with questions or problems would have a nominal cost, and existing staff could incorporate responding to hotline calls into their regular duties.$ 1,000
Total Year One Costs $123,610
If HCD streamlined its permitting process, processed unresolved permits in a timely manner, and made sure that its staff were adequately trained, it would be able to generate permit fee revenue for the construction that is currently occurring without the requisite permits.
The amount of additional permit revenue the City should be able to collect is as follows:
$3,000,000 X 1.00 = $3,000,000 X 50%= $1,500,000
(15) There are currently 20 building inspectors, 11 electrical inspectors, and 9 mechanical inspectors, each making an average of $20/hr. Fringe benefits are approximately 35%, or $7/hr. Average hourly burdened cost per inspector is $27.