The city of Spokane plans to phase in a new commercial permitting application process that it says should speed up the time it takes to issue such permits.
Under the new process, applicants for commercial permit plan reviews will be asked to schedule appointments to submit their plans. During those appointments, building department employees will review the plans and determine whether they are complete, says Joe Wizner, the citys building official. If information is missing, the applicant will be told that during the appointment, Wizner says. Applications deemed to be complete will proceed through the permitting process. The ultimate goal is that, during the meeting, the customer will be given an approximate date by which the permit process will be expected to be complete, he says.
Under the old process, customers dropped off their plans, but might not have learned for a week or more whether the application was complete.
A lot of times, when someone brings in an application, site plans might be missing a couple of things, like a civil engineers drawing or information here or there, Wizner says.
The new process will offer greater predictability for commercial plan review for developers who submit permit applications, he says.
When a customer is investing significant time and resources into a major project, we want to make sure that we are efficiently processing their submittals, Wizner says.
Brandon Spackman, a project manager with Spokane-based Baker Construction & Development Inc., hasnt turned in a permit under the new system, but says he appreciates the goals that are driving it.
I only wish everybody did that, he says of the appointment-scheduling. Well know if we have what they want right away.
Under the old system, a permit application could sit on a building department employees desk for weeks before the time came for it to be reviewed, he says.
It saves them the time of having to write letters, and it could eliminate a lot of the resubmittal process, he says of the new system.
If building department staff members can estimate under the new system how long it will take to review a permit application, it would help contractors plan projects, he adds.
In the past, applications for new commercial buildings and additions typically took four to six weeks for the building department to process, Wizner says.
The average turnaround time has been increasing in the last few years, due mostly to the increasing number of permit applications submitted for commercial plan review, he says.
The last two or three years were really booming, Wizner says. Last year was unbelievable.
Through August of this year, 320 commercial applications had been submitted to the city for plan review, a volume second only to the record pace of 326 such applications in the year-earlier period.
Hopefully, the new process is going to reduce turnaround time significantly, Wizner says.
The city hoped to begin phasing in the new permitting system this month, but was still looking last week for a few commercial applications to include in a pilot project for the system, Wizner says.
If all goes well, the system should be fully implemented to include all major commercial projects by the end of November, he says.
The new system was developed with assistance from the citys Permit Process Advisory Board, a citizens group that has been working with the city to help improve its permitting process.
A commercial project is any project that isnt a single-family residence, duplex, townhouse, or one that otherwise doesnt meet over-the-counter criteria.
The new commercial plan application review system is one in a series of steps the city is taking to improve the permitting process.
The City Council earlier this year approved nine new building department positions, which will cost a total of roughly $700,000 annually.
In the spring, the building department launched an over-the-counter permitting process that allows developers and contractors to obtain quickly permits for minor remodels and alterations to commercial spaces.
The department also is working on an online permitting system, which is expected to allow developers and builders to obtain some permits via the Internet, to track permit applications online, and to communicate via e-mail with department employees, Wizner says.
Contact Mike McLean at (509) 344-1266 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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