City, county teaming up to speed land-use permits

September 7th, 2013

News Coverage:

Published: September 7, 2013 3:00 a.m.

City, county teaming up to speed land-use permits

Vivian Sade | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne and Allen County officials are closer to completing a process that will align their laws and expedite the land-use permit process.

“We continue to move forward and are just slightly behind schedule,” Roy Buskirk said Friday. The county councilman also chairs the Joint Permit Oversight Committee.

The project includes improving online permitting and reducing redundant city and county laws. The bipartisan city-county committee spent more than a year discussing permit problems with the business community.

One improvement that members of the public and construction community may have already noticed is the ability to access services, apply for permits and pay fees online.

Available permit information and applications include electric, building, plumbing, new construction, remodeling, planning services, health, drainage issues, highway and roads and more.

The online service will greatly reduce the need for contractors or the public to travel downtown, saving time, money and frustration for both sides, Buskirk said.

The city and county should also save on staffing from reductions of on-site traffic, he said.

The system will allow developers to track their projects online. It will also help city and county employees track their performance and understand where in the process applications are getting stalled.

The new service is designed to improve customer service, Buskirk said.

The system will chart a permit’s progress from department to department.

“If it is held up too long in one department, the system will red-flag it, and a computer-generated letter will be sent to the applicant,” Buskirk said.

Delays are usually from a missing piece of information or a lack of compliance, he said.

Aligning processes

An ongoing key component of the plan is the aligning of city and county ordinances, making it easier for the public to access and understand them, Buskirk said.

Originally, that process was expected to be completed by January, but Buskirk said they are about a month behind.

“Builders are often confused by the city and county’s different set of rules on things like setbacks, landscaping regulations and sidewalk widths,” he said.

Once the laws are aligned and revised and before the documents are approved by the city and county, a hearing will be conducted to get the public’s input, Buskirk said.