Workshops will debut streamlined permit model - New emphasis by agency on 'customer service'

By Bryan Corliss
The Daily Herald Writer

Everett, WA - 12/2/02 - A new emphasis on customer service and a willingness to cooperate could ease the land-use permitting process in Snohomish County, an economic development official said.

That in turn could improve the county's economic competitiveness, said Diana Dollar, a policy analyst for the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

Development permits

What: Two workshops to discuss a proposal to streamline development permit processes.
In Everett: From 6-8 p.m. Dec. 9 in the Community Room at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave.

In Bothell: From 3-5 p.m. Dec. 10 in the Bothell Public Safety Building, 18410 101st Ave. NE.

Details: Call 425-743-4567.

"We're serous about that," she said. "We want to see businesses expand, as well as see new business come in."

The development council will unveil its proposed model for streamlining land-use permits at a pair of workshops next week: on Dec. 9 in Everett, and Dec. 10 in Bothell.

The proposal is the result of 10 months of work by Dollar and a volunteer committee of developers and local government officials. It's a detailed document that borrows from procedures in place at the city of Kent, Dollar said.

Its goals: to foster a cooperative attitude between developers and land-use regulators, and to define who is responsible for doing what to make the process flow more efficiently.

There are a lot of complaints about the permit process now, Dollar said.

"Some of them are valid. Some of them are not," she said. The committee's job was to "blow out the myths and deal with reality."

Two cities - Mountlake Terrace and Sultan - have agreed to adopt the approach, Dollar said. The development council, with the aid of an executive loaned from the Boeing Co., hopes to help them get the program launched there in January.

The proposal is not a new land-use law and it doesn't address building permit issues, Dollar said. "We're not reforming codes. We're not adding code."

Instead, it addresses ways local jurisdictions can organize their offices to make it easier for developers to comply with existing land-use regulations that cover large commercial developments.

The new model process encourages developers and regulators to meet to discuss projects before developers formally apply for the permits.

At those meetings, regulators should outline what they're going to require of the developer before issuing permits: the kinds of information they'll need to provide, the time it will take to complete the process and all the fees that they'll have to pay.

The paperwork should be easy to understand, up-to-date and easily accessible, Dollar said. That could mean putting it online, or just placing it in an easy-to-access place in a city planning office.

Having this information from the start will make the process more "timely and predictable" for developers, Dollar said. "The more they have at the front end, the easier it's going to be for them."

At the same time, the proposed model puts some responsibility on developers to think of themselves as part of a team working on getting the permits approved, Dollar said.

"The responsibilities are both ways - both sides of the counter," Dollar said.

Developers should schedule the early meetings and get their key people to them, Dollar said. They should hire more consultants, who are experts at working the permitting process, rather than risk delays by trying to negotiate an unfamiliar process by themselves.

And developers should approach neighbors who could be affected by their projects early on.

"When developers have reached out and talked to residents, good results have come from that," Dollar said. Getting the public involved at the beginning greatly lessens the chance of someone filing a challenge to stop a project near the end, she said.

Next week's workshops are intended to explain the new process, and perhaps encourage more local governments to consider adopting them, Dollar said. The hope is also to attract the attention of the development community, to show what's being done to address their concerns, she said.

You can call Herald Writer Bryan Corliss at 425-339-3454 or send e-mail to


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