From the Hip: John Starbard, Director, Department of Permitting and Environmental Review

On-line, not in line

john-starbard_finalThe Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (“Permitting”), like all County agencies, has been on a years-long journey of continuous improvement. This year, we will be expanding some service enhancements that we launched last year so that nearly every applicant can gain the benefits of easier application. Those enhancements are: 1) adding more permit types that will be available for on-line permitting, and 2) offering credit card payments in the office and on-line.

Last March, we launched on-line permitting for a select family of our easiest permits: residential mechanical permits. Those are permits for mechanical equipment in homes, such as furnaces. Those types of permits do not require any kind of review in the office, but they do need a field inspection to make sure the equipment was installed correctly and safely for current and future residents. Yet, even though there is no review required in the office, we were requiring our customers to come to our office and submit an application and pay their fees. Now, we offer a service whereby one can apply for a residential mechanical permit on-line, pay on-line via credit card, and print the permit.

In concert with this, we now offer on-line inspection requests for any kind of permit, and we respond by providing the name of the assigned inspector and a two-hour window in which the inspector will arrive. These services have been very well received. Surprisingly, residential mechanical permits comprise about one-third of the department’s annual application volume!

From left to right, Building Official and Fire Marshall Chris Ricketts and Fire Marshall Deputy Mark Ossewaarde

From left to right, Permitting employees Building Official and Fire Marshall Chris Ricketts and Fire Marshall Deputy Mark Ossewaarde.

This year we will begin offering more permit types that will be available for on-line application, plan submission, and progress tracking.

Permitting has joined a regional service called (MBP), which is a consortium of 14 King County cities and Snohomish County that began offering its services in 2002. King County’s membership means that now 1.2 million residents in this region will have access to on-line building permitting via MBP.

The first new permit types to be offered this August will be single-family permits for production builders. But then we will expand the menu to include home remodels, custom homes, tenant improvements, and more. We anticipate that in the near future every permit type will be available for on-line application and payment, and that department staff will review plans on screens rather than paper. Electronic plan submission will save our customers a meaningful amount of money in reproduction costs, especially for larger, more complex projects, not to mention the added convenience of being able to submit all their materials from wherever they are.

Also this year, Permitting soon will launch credit card payment options in its office. This will be a service enhancement until all permits are on-line, but we know that some people simply like the social aspect of doing business in person, and that we will have some in-person customers well into the future—most of whom would prefer to pay by credit card.

We are excited to be on the cusp of offering these contemporary services to more and more customers.