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Miami Herald - January 29, 2006

Getting permits made easier
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez unveiled the results of an initiative to improve the permitting and inspection process.


It was the third time the architect had visited Miami-Dade County's permitting department, hoping this time he'd get his planned fence approved.

And even though Latin Builders Association head Gus Gil has hired hands to deal with his permitting needs, he said at a Wednesday news conference that he felt for the man at Miami-Dade County's Permitting & Inspection Center at 11805 SW 26th St.

Others waited Wednesday to speak with permitting officials, some looking more like they were in line for a root canal.

''Single homeowners get so frustrated going from window to window . . . that they take a chance doing an addition'' without a permit, said Gil, a member of the county's Development Process Advisory Committee, which helped come up with ideas to streamline the county's complex and often tedious permitting process.

Gil and Mayor Carlos Alvarez unveiled more than two dozen measures to help residents and developers get building permits more efficiently. The plans, which resulted from Alvarez's promise to streamline the permitting process, will be implemented within the year.

''As a county, we must facilitate growth, not obstruct it,'' said Alvarez, whose tenure has been most noted for trying to stop development from edging closer to the Everglades. ``At the same time, we need to ensure the development of safe, sustainable communities.''

Among the improvements:

• One assistant county manager, not four, will oversee all seven departments involved in the permitting and inspection process. That official, Bill Johnson, will be evaluated this year on how much the process improves.

• Greeters will help customers navigate the departments. There will also be an on-site troubleshooter, Development Coordinator Tom Marko.

• Make sure insignificant problems don't send customers back to the beginning of the approval process.

• Coffee will be served for early morning permit pullers who, like all customers, now have the option of paying for fees in cash, check and credit card. Before, cash wasn't an option.

The changes are good news for big developers. Gil said a small committee representing the various departments at the permitting and inspection center will be on hand to review simple plans within 24 hours, clearing the way for officials to tackle complex projects introduced by developers.

''This is the first time in the history of my being involved with this issue that will really change the way you pull permits,'' said Gil.