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9/20/01 - Miami Today

Changes in building permit process offer time-saving options

By Victor Cruz

Miami-Dade County is ready to launch two additions to the building permit process that are expected to speed the procedure for small as well as large projects.

One change will allow applicants to pay county workers to review building plans on their own time, "shaving one-third of time it normally takes," said Building Department Director Charles Danger.

Mr. Danger said he hopes to have the option in place by Oct. 1.

Preliminary estimates for the new option are planned to be $65 for each discipline required for residential reviews and $115 for commercial projects, said Donna Romito, building department support services director.

Under the system, she said, reviews that typically take up to 30 days could be done in 20 days.

Permitting disciplines covered under the new procedure, Ms. Romito said, would include electrical, mechanical, plumbing, building and structural plan reviews.

A second addition to the permitting system, planned to start in January, will create an Office of Permit Management, where experienced managers will be assigned to individual applications, said Assistant County Manager Alicia Cuervo Schreiber.

She said managers would communicate with personnel in various departments about what attention a permit needs as it moves through the system.

The creation of the management office, combined with a concurrent review process, Ms. Schreiber said, could shave 16 to 17 days off the average permitting time.

Also, the county plans to move the entire building department plus other staff associated with the permitting process on Dec. 21 to a new office near Florida International University's University Park Campus. The move is intended to centralize the process and will relocate more than 500 county employees, Mr. Danger said.

The others workers involved will be from sections of the county's zoning, environmental resource management, water & sewer, public works, clerk of courts, human resource management and fire departments.

Ms. Romito said the relocation to 11856 Coral Way would consolidate cashier functions and create a concurrent review process where all facets of permitting are under one roof.

With the move will come technological upgrades that will make it possible to get building permits over the Internet for subsidiary trade functions outside of a master permit for building, she said.

Such e-permits would be available for certain jobs, including selected roofing, electrical, mechanical and plumbing work not directly related to the health and safety of a building's occupants, Ms. Schreiber said.

The streamlining would cost several million dollars, Mr. Danger said. The move will also create room to fill 26 vacant posts associated with permitting, Ms. Schreiber said.

Business development officials and county businesses continue to take advantage of a fast-track program designed in 1999, county officials said. They said this year six companies took advantage of the program, which promises businesses that apply a maximum of 50 days to get a permit if they invest a minimum of $500,000 in the business, provide at least 50 jobs and participate in county or state incentive programs such as those associated with the enterprise zone.

Avaya, a spin-off from Lucent Technologies in the Doral area; Blackstone Corp., which deals with machinery that handles transactions for prepaid calling cards; Dollar-Rent-a-Car; Home Bank Mortgage, an Atlanta-based financial firm, and Precision Response Corp., which opened a 600-employee firm in South Dade, all took advantage of the program, said Joe Martinez vice president of development for the Beacon Council, which played a role in developing the program.

"It was extremely helpful in processing and expediting the permitting process," said Mike Conlon, general manager of Dollar. He said his developers, Bollenback Builders of Tampa, shaved two to three months off of the permitting time by opting into the program.