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Permit Us to Help

A growing number of municipalities are implementing procedures and using technology to make the permitting process faster and easier for companies and developers.

Dec/Jan 08
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Owners and developers of projects can go online and type in barcodes and passwords to track timelines. "There's no more using the city as an excuse," says Cooper. "Everyone knows where the projects are at, and that has made the owners and developers ecstatic."

The building community in Henderson has been delighted with the changes. "The DSC has drastically streamlined the permitting process," says John Ramos, vice president of operations for Harsch Investment Properties' Las Vegas Regional office. "They have shaved weeks and even months off the permitting process, which has allowed us to start our projects sooner and, in turn, has made our business more successful."

In fact, Henderson's DSC has been so successful that other municipalities around the country - including Tucson, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Sacramento County, California - are all taking a look at how to implement a similar system in their communities.

Teamwork is Key

All of the technology in the world won't help, however, if the people involved in the permitting process fail to do their jobs. So many municipalities are re-educating their staffs to be cross-trained in varied areas of the permitting process, thereby making them more valuable and efficient team members. Educating the "clients" involved in the permitting process has also proven to be valuable. "We have found education to be very important, so we have workshops and forums for engineers and architects," says Cooper. "We also found having an ongoing advisory board to be very popular."

And in today's fast-paced construction climate, architects, building officials, and field inspectors need to be up to date on current building codes and the local permitting processes in their communities. "The challenges are still there because there are a dozen different departments that have to write off or proof your plans," says Cooper. He lists police and fire departments, utilities, and public works, to name just a few. "Everyone has input into your plans."

So developers, builders, inspectors, and municipal permitting departments are just a few of the constituencies that are going to have to support changes in the regulatory process going forward - as are architects. "We are so busy that architects have to turn in their plans like an `A' paper; otherwise it's going to get rejected," says Cooper. "If the plans are perfect, they will go into the system quicker." And that can streamline everything.

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