Local News

Task force recommends new city department for permits

permitting process by Jeff Switzer
A new department focused solely on the permitting process is one of the recommendations the permit processing improvement task force presented to the Woodinville City Council last week. Other issues addressed include improved communication, responsiveness, and accountability.
   The task force was formed to bring the city into compliance with the regulatory reform bill ESHB 172, passed by the State Legislature last year, which requires that land use permit applications be processed in 120 days or less. The legislation also decreases the time available to respond to public notice, which will take place earlier in the process than it currently does.
   In response to complaints from those doing business in Woodinville, the task force has been working since Jan. 5 to identify problems and come up with solutions. The 21-member task force was made up of representatives from the local development industry, city staff and other permitting agencies, such as the fire and water districts.
   As a group, the task force critically evaluated the current process and identified strengths and weaknesses. In addition to the new permit department, the group also recommended the current technical review committee's role should be more formalized, as it "provides a positive communication link between the applicant and city staff," minimizing surprises on both sides. Other recommendations include a formalized appeal process, the addition of a permit manager to track the progress of various permits and the creation of a close-out checklist.

Task force recommends city use staff, not consultants
   Since incorporation, the city has contracted for many of its services, including landscaping, parking and life safety; building and structural work; site and civil engineering; site grading and temporary erosion control; fire engineering; and Washington State Energy Codes.
   The task force felt using consultants was expensive and added time as well when consultants' offices were not located nearby.
   "Consultants provide thorough review, but expect perfection and tend to be inflexible," the report read.

Staff recommendations to council
   City staff recommended to the council that more plan reviewers be hired, a board of review be created, and the council consider the pros and cons of the task force's other recommendations. Several of the recommendations are already being implemented.
   Flow charts and tracking software are being developed to comply with ESHB 172, as well as to provide applicants a comprehensive list of what is required of them.