Interesting Way to Push the Issue of Reforming the Permit System

(JK seems to know the permitting system inside and out, and has some suggestions for correction – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

An article on Boston.com briefly discusses how some of our neighbors are tackling this issue.  The Rhode Island Builders Association is suing several towns because of the dragged out process of permitting that can kill many projects.  I have experienced this in my work as an environmental consultant on redevelopment projects in both RI and Mass.  The process in RI is actually easier then Mass but still extremely time consuming with little value added to the project or the community.

The association claimes [sic] the glacial pace of municipal decision-making violates state law and deprives landowners of their property rights.

(“glacial pace” love that line)

As the article points out, the permitting process adds fee to the project that many clients simple don’t understand.  When you try and tell a client you need to resubmit a set of drawings for things as insane as the conservation committee does like the font on your drawings because they can’t read it easily (actually happened to me) they think you are making it up and just trying to get more money out of them.  I would gladly forgo all of the extra fee for a simplified permitting process. 

In this article from the ProJo on the subject, another example of the permitting process is given and more details on the law suite.

In May, the Apple Construction Corp. sought permission to build a 550-square-feet, wood-frame garage attached to a private home.

The modest project required no zoning variances and faced no challenges from abutters. But the Warwick Building Department did not grant a permit for more than two months, delaying construction until August, according to Richard Welch, president of the North Kingstown-based company.

Another interesting aspect of the story is the take on fees:

The complaint also challenges the permit fees, arguing that they exceed the cost of providing the review and amount to an “illegal tax” that violates the state Constitution. It asks that more than $400,000 in fees from the nine communities be refunded.

This ties into something I suggested in a previous post, the direct funding or “enterprising” of governmental services.  The fees collected for the review of plans goes directly into the general fund for the city or town.  These fees should go directly into an account only to be used for the building department and the fees should be set based on the cost to provide the review and inspections needed. 

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