Proposed Permit Process May Cost County $500K
SNOW HILL - Simplifying the building permit process for small projects could cost the county big bucks, staff told the Worcester County Commissioners at Tuesday's budget work session.
Talk of adding an online application process for building permits of all stripes, and adding mapping functions online, would require a lot of work and staff, said Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting.
'I'm projecting half a million dollars there if we go that route,' Tudor said.
Tudor estimated he would need an additional three staffers.
'It's just a big, big, big undertaking,' he said. 'There's a lot more to it than meets the eye.'
The matter was brought up for discussion only and is not part of this year's budget request for his department.
'I'm not saying this is something we necessarily need to jump into,' Tudor said.
Commissioner Virgil Shockley said he thought it would be useful to allow people to apply for permits through the county website. Applying for an electrical or plumbing permit online would be more convenient than requiring small builders and renovators to go to Snow Hill, he said.
'We take credit cards anyway,' said Shockley.
With building permit numbers down, about one third below last year's level year to date, Shockley said he thought Tudor ought to be able to reassign staff to at least help small project applicants through the permitting process.
Those constructing an addition, or a swimming pool, unlike big developers, are not familiar with the process and could use assistance.
'They're not there to hinder, they're going to help,' said Shockley. 'I was hoping we could actually try this.'
However, some said it is not the county's role to lead people through the process.
'The department does not have people who can handhold the public and take them through this process,' said Gerry Mason, county administrator. 'You can ask the department to do it, but I think you're setting yourself up for failure.'
Commissioner Bob Cowger suggested the department set up an appointment system, to let small project builders get help from staff.
'If you do it for one person, you have to do it for everyone,' said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.
Tudor said the number of permits for small projects is a small percentage of the overall permit requests.'We issue thousands, and thousands and thousands of permits a year,' said Tudor.