County Comment: Plan Approval Committee Update

County Comment
Plan Approval Committee Update
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In its regular meeting on January 22nd, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard a report from the Plan Approval Process Committee.
Donald Bowman, Chair and Trey Alter, Alternate Chair of that committee brought this update before the Board.
The Plan Approval Process Committee, a blue-ribbon panel made up of engineers, architects, developers and contractors, began meeting in August 2007 to review the County's plan approval process, and met 16 times over the intervening period. The committee met with the various County departments and agencies performing the plan reviews and approvals to discuss their processes, as well as their recurring issues with the plans and the private development community. The committee also heard issues from engineering consultants, contractors and developers.
The committee was made up of Bowman, partner in the Bowman Group, Alter, a developer with Dyna Corporation, Al Bendell, President of the Hardell Corporation, Tim Campbell, President of Callas Contractors, Jason Divelbiss, an Attorney with Miller Oliver, Curt Dudda, retiree, Brent Feight, Architect with BFM Architects, Tim Field, President of Royal House, Chris Kerns, Engineer with All Land Services, Jim Lobley, President of Hagerstown Kitchens, Ed Schreiber, Project Development for Frederick Seibert and Associates, and Jeff Tedrick, Developer/Contractor with Bowman Development.
County representation included John Barr, Commissioners' President, Greg Murray, County Administrator, Joe Kroboth, Director of Public Works, and Planning and Community Development Director Mike Thompson.
After gathering all the pertinent information the committee compiled a list of recommendations for consideration. Various inadequacies in County standards, policies and procedures, as well as inconsistencies in the plan submittals, were identified during the discussions. After inadequacies were identified, the committee discussed options on how to correct the issues and achieve a more efficient plan approval process.
Major problems, the Committee found, were submittal of incomplete plans to the County review agencies, and lack of a functional timetable for all review agencies to complete the process.
Committee recommendations included annual reviews/updates of new Construction and Traffic Standards by the Divisions of Public Works and Environmental Management, including an appellant procedure when a policy, procedure or ordinance is misinterpreted, doesn't apply, or an alternate means of construction meets the intent of the policy, procedure or ordinance. The Committee recommended time limits for all departments for submittal of review, comments, and approval, and holding departments accountable for these time frames. Implementation of a Customer Service Survey for the Permits/Inspection Process and the Planning/Review Process, with processed data going to Department Heads would be needed, the Committee said. One individual/authority should be responsible and accountable for tracking projects and guiding them through the approval process; all departments involved in the plan review process should be required to use the Permits System "Velocity Hall" for tracking projects and publishing comments; compilation of a comprehensive checklist for initial plan review and permit submittal screening, inclusive of all County department requirements is needed; hiring a Traffic Engineer/Planner to specifically assist in and facilitate the traffic component of the plan review process should take place; and a Plan Approval Process Committee should meet quarterly for standards development updates were also recommended.
Commissioners' President John Barr thanked the Committee for its time and efforts, and lauded the membership for meeting each Monday at 7:30 a.m.
The Committee's recommendations will be reviewed by the Board ands returned to the agenda for action at a later date.