When Is Another Approval One Too Many?

The county planning board discusses county planning staff suggestions for streamlining county development review and approval processes at the board's Thursday meeting.

Obtaining a development permit in Montgomery County is not always the most straightforward process.

In fact, county planning staff identified 67 issues with the county's development review and approval process, and will present a summary of the issues and possible solutions to the issues to the county planning board at the board's weekly meeting on Thursday.

Identifying 67 issues and solutions is—like the permitting process—time-consuming. The planning staff has been working with county departments and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission since December 2011 on the project.

"These efforts have identified numerous processes that can be simplified to reduce the time it takes for a project to move from concept to building permit," according to a planning staff memo regarding Thursday's presentation.

"Most of the recommendations to date are procedural ones that do not require changes to laws or regulations," the memo added.

Some of the solutions to the 67 issues already have been implemented, according to the memo, including:

  • Consolidation of permit inspections for fire alarm and fire protection services.
  • Elimination of forest conservation pre-construction meetings before building permits are issued.
  • Modification of procedures related to the release of forest conservation and site plan financial securities, to make the process easier for applicants.
  • Institution of a weekly report of "expedited/green tape applications" by the permitting services department and sent to the land development department, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and to WSSC, so that these agencies may approve straightforward applications quickly.
  • Implementation of "ePlans" for electronic review of applications. With ePlans, each agency's comments are available to all other agencies.
  • Posting of the transportation department's design standards for "context sensitive road design" on the transportation department's website.
  • Approval by the transportation department of revisions to existing design standards for cul-de-sacs and temporary turnarounds accommodating emergency vehicles.
  • The planning board's move to approve a resolution on the same day that a development application is approved. "When that is not possible, the resolution is usually approved only a couple weeks after the hearing," according to the memo.
  • WSSC's institution of a pilot program "to allow, by special request, releases related to completed water and sewer systems when more than 50 [percent] is complete. In the past, such releases could not be obtained until the entire project had been finished," the memo added.

Read more about the potential changes to the development review and approval process in the planning staff's memo and in the chart of 67 issues identified with the review and approval process.

Have you, in your opinion, seen time and money (yours, the developer's, the county's, etc.) wasted in the development review and approval process? What was the issue, and how do you think it could be resolved? Tell us in the comments.


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