Kitsap County: Building permit time cut in half
April 4, 2003
If you want to build a single-family house in Kitsap County, you can get through the county government's permit process in half the time it would have taken two years ago, county officials say.
It's the result of streamlining a process in which both the county Department of Community Development and Health District have a hand.
Keith Grellner of the Kitsap County Health District says the two agencies now are able to work simultaneously on an application, using computers and allowing builders to track the work online.
Two years ago, one department had to finish its review and send the paperwork on to the other, often taking three months from start to finish.
It not only dragged out the work but often meant frustrated trips between the two agencies for the applicant.
"Now in 2003, if property owners are sure what they want to do, their designer can submit an application to the Health District with a signed concurrent review form," Grellner said.
"Then they take that review form that we stamped along with a copy of their plot plan, and the very next day they can apply for their building permit. They no longer have to wait."
The Health District has moved an employee to DCD half-time to provide immediate information about what to expect from the other agency.
The county's new Land Information System also enables DCD to track the progress of an application at the health district, said Darryl Piercy, acting DCD director.
"Between 1998 and 2000, processing a single home permit took six weeks or more for the initial review and another six weeks for the final permit," said Mark Grimm, building development permit manager for Kitsap County.
"After our internal reorganization, inspections now take about half the time to complete."
Builders Steve Brett of D Lane Homes and Rick Courson of Cedar Bay Homes, who build in Central and North Kitsap, both say they have seen a big improvement.
Brett felt the figures are even better than the county is boasting.
"We build about 15 homes a year and four or five weeks was pretty common," Brett said. "They have been making pretty decent strides in getting things through in a couple of weeks."
Courson's experience also is positive but more in line with the county's figures.
"We have cut about 30 days off the permitting process," he said. "It was 60 to 90 days and now is from 30 to 60."
"Money costs money," he said, and it costs about $6,000 to get a home to the point of permitting. "You can't close your loans and lock anything in until you have that building permit."
Each day saved in the permitting process saves on finance costs.
The Department of Community Development evaluates plans for building code and zoning compliance while the Health District certifies sewer and water plans.
For the homebuyer, though, its hard to figure a savings, he said. The county's fees have gone up at the same time its efficiency has improved, about $800 in the past couple of months, he said.
Brett praised a daily "triage" system and having the status of a permit available online.
In triage, staffers review new permits and sign off on any that have no problems, he said, "so it doesn't have to sit on somebody's desk."
And if he finds out online that one of his applications has a problem, it shows him where so he knows who to call to resolve it, he said.
County Commissioners Chris Endresen and Patty Lent said the report shows the system to be more "accountable, efficient and streamlined."
"We worked on it a long time and now we have proof," Endresen said. "I'm very proud of community development. They're the ones who did it."
Grellner said the new system rewards certainty in what is being proposed.
"What we want people to understand is the system we have changed to favors people who know what they want and are ready to go.
"With the old system, (there were) people who kept changing their minds or would not follow through and would submit partial applications. We were first-come, first-served, so those who knew what they wanted were lumped in with those with partial applications.
"We're trying to reward and help the people who know what they want so they're not stuck waiting."
Changing one's mind hurts.
"If you change locations of your house or drain field, you have to start at the beginning again," Grellner said.
Building permit numbers for the county are up 77 percent from a year ago, though it's not clear if the greater ease of getting a permit played a role.
There were 145 permits through March in 2002, and 256 in the same three months this year.
County officials Thursday hosted a delegation from King County to tout the Land Information System that has contributed to the smoother communications between the two agencies. The county and Paladin Data Systems of Poulsbo jointly developed LIS and are marketing it to local governments statewide.
Reach reporter Travis Baker at (360) 792-9217 or at email@example.com.
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