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Thread: Onerous processes - what say you?

  1. #1
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Onerous processes - what say you?

    okay - the business community is skewering me because of our onerous permitting process - "the town" is causing all the economic problems for small businesses so I want to compare what we do to what others do (maybe they are right)

    here's the made-up but probable scenario:

    I have a building with a restaurant in it that I want to turn into a retail store. I am located in the core/central business district. I will renovate the facade and put up a new sign, some interior work. Both the existing and proposed use are allowed in the zoning.

    what permits do I need, who do I need to see, how long does it take and how much will it cost me? if a public board is involved, explain that further

    thanks folks for your help - I will post what I require later in the week!
    Last edited by luckless pedestrian; 17 May 2010 at 11:15 AM. Reason: forgot about renovations

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    If there's no exterior component of any significance, then in my system you would get a "permitted use" zoning approval through my office and development review committee without public meetings. That PUP would probably take 2 weeks unless the applicant didn't respond well to issues. After the DRC your building permit would probably take another week - again assuming the applicant responds. The total cost would depend on the project valuation (for building pemrits) but the zoning portion would cost $250.00.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    A change in use means that Plans Review is required- that is where every applicable department reviews the plans for the change and gets together their comments all at one time. For this process there is a $250 filing fee and both digital and hard copies of the project sheets are required. The deadline is 10 days before the departments meet. Revisions to the plans may end up needed but there is not further charge for the review until it is complete then a building permit fee would be assessed by Building Inspections to cover the work proposed.

    Our central business area is a historic district and that means that any changes to the building would need a Certificate of Appropriateness that could mean a staff level review (3 days/ $20) for something like a new sign or a public hearing for a storefront remodel (minimum $50 to $150 fee/ minimum 30 days).

    The sign permit application is ultimately issued by Building Inspections, but Planning has to sign off on it first. There is not minimum time frame and I think there is a $30 fee.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    If the proposed use is a use that is permitted by right, and in the downtown zoning district, then Planning doesn't review anything. If it were outside the downtown, then the only thing Planning would review is parking, but parking requirements do not apply downtown. So the only permits needed are for interior work. Permit cost is based on valuation.

    A new sign would require a sign permit which has an application fee of about $20 and a time frame of about 3 days.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Change of Use = Commission approval. Assuming no significant building or site changes, parking demand and signage would be the relevant issues.

    Commission approval + administrative paperwork = approx 2-3 week timeframe and approx $100 - $300 in fees depending on the amount of signage. All this doesn't count the Building Permit process.

    Anything other than a strict change to a permitted use in an existing building leads to much more beaurocracy and cost.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Since both are approved uses you're only need to have you new sign permit approved by our downtown facade commission. That is a 15 minutes meeting and a $25 permit fee. No parking review because it's downtown. Change in use would require a review by the building official (not in the planning department) so I can't comment on how long that would take.

    Keep it simple.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Facade improvements may require a design review. Otherwise, just a sign permit. There are building permits, and the health department would check things out for a restaurant. But those are not in planning.

    In my town before Greensburg, the Fire Marshal, Chief Building Official, and Zoning Administrator reviewed plans weekly before the single building permit was issued.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Since the uses are consistent with the code we will only perform the following:

    The sign will require a sign permit. This can be submitted with building plans. The fee is $95, plus building fee based on improvements. If this use is located in redevelopment district/or downtown, our local stimulus may cover the entire fee. An oversized sign not permitted by the code will have to go through Administrative Use Permitt. This fee is $305. A hiring will be require with zoning officer (me )

    We will require a building permitt for all interior and extorior renovations. Planning and building will perform a concurrent review to ensure parking requirements, etc. are met. Fee is $95 for planning review, plus building fees based on improvements.

    Appearance review of facade will be perfomed at a staff level only. This is a part of the $95 fee.

    Initial filing fee of $70 is due to process. All other permit fees will be required to be paid by cash or check at the issuance of building permit. Aditional fees may be rerquired for issuance of final permit.
    No Signature Required

  9. #9
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Hire a design professional to answer most of your questions.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    I have a building with a restaurant in it that I want to turn into a retail store. I am located in the core/central business district. I will renovate the facade and put up a new sign, some interior work. Both the existing and proposed use are allowed in the zoning.

    what permits do I need, who do I need to see, how long does it take and how much will it cost me? if a public board is involved, explain that further

    thanks folks for your help - I will post what I require later in the week!
    Special permit for design review going to the Planning Board and ZBA. Special Permit for parking (probably), same. Facade review before the Planning Board. Sign review before the Planning Board.

    Time taken, 6-9 months. Cost, probably about $2-5,000. Value, priceless!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Special inspection by builders services. Building permit for modifications. Permit for sign. Elapsed time? About a day. Do we see it? Hell no, and I don't want to see it.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  12. #12
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    The change in use requires an occupancy permit and building permit, which goes through the Inspections Dept, and I would assume a set of plans would be required. There is a fee schedule for this based upon sq. footage and what specific reviews are needed. A similar project in our downtown had a permit fee for $450. (A sign permit would be required ($100). All permit applications are issued through Inpections, but Planning signs off on them. They take about a week, though more in depth changes may take two weeks.

    If the building is in the local historic district, the facade changes would have to go through the HDC, which meets monthly. (no charge) If this were to be required, we can start the permitting process while the HDC application is pending (with the understanding that depending on if the proposed changes to the facade were denied, the plans may have the be changed). If the changes to the facade were severe we wouldn't recommend doing this.

    I'll add that even in these cases (where it's a permitted use) people complain that our process is too onerous and not conducive to business.

    FWIW, a rezoning or special use permit goes through both the Planning Commission and City Commission and can take up to three months.
    Last edited by SW MI Planner; 18 May 2010 at 9:40 AM. Reason: just because :)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    Special permit for design review going to the Planning Board and ZBA. Special Permit for parking (probably), same. Facade review before the Planning Board. Sign review before the Planning Board.

    Time taken, 6-9 months. Cost, probably about $2-5,000. Value, priceless!
    For discussions sake, why so long and so expensive? If both uses are allowed why put these roadblocks up to prevent businesses from operating?

  14. #14
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    For discussions sake, why so long and so expensive? If both uses are allowed why put these roadblocks up to prevent businesses from operating?
    Because in most of New England, staff does not make the final permitting decisions...almost everything goes to a Board or Commission for review and approval.

    Answering the OP's question from my Town's perspective:

    Initially, would bring the request to the Planning Board to have them determine if they want the staff to handle administratively or require site plan review. If the Board OK's staff review, process would entail working with Building Division for permits, and would likely take a couple of weeks.

    If the Board requires site plan review, then I would expect about 3 months of process for plan preparation, review, public hearing and approval.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The relevant issues are time, cost, and complexity. Most of the communities I work with are relatively small (under 20,000 population) and the process for a project like what you described typically takes 2-3 weeks for a cost under $500 (plus building permits). This assumes that the retail use is permitted by right. Plan approval would only be required for the sign and the facade in most places. In a historic district it might have to go through an additional design committee. Building permits would typically take less time to approve, unless the interior work was substantial.

    Where I hear complaints is when the approval process is very bureaucratic, which tends to be in the west as well as in the older eastern cities. The midwest is informal. Fill out some short forms, submit a floor plan and facade rendering, and it will be on the next agenda. I worked for communities in Colorado where something simple like this could easily take 2-3 months and cost thousands.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner View post
    If the Board requires site plan review, then I would expect about 3 months of process for plan preparation, review, public hearing and approval.
    You (not NHP, but anyone) can disagree with me here, but this is the reason planning and government has a bad name in general. To change from one permitted use to another should not have to take thousands of dollars in permit fees and months of paperwork/preparations.

    What good do we serve our communities by putting these onerous requirements on our residents that seek only to change from one legal use to another? Fire and building safety always need to be checked for change of use, but to have public hearings and public reviews to approve a legal change seems a bit extreme. I'll ask again, how does this better our communities and profession?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    You (not NHP, nut anyone) can disagree with me here, but this is the reason planning and government has a bad name in general. To change from one permitted use to another should not have to take thousands of dollars in permit fees and months of paperwork/preparations.

    What good do we serve our communities by putting these onerous requirements on our residents that seek only to change from one legal use to another? Fire and building safety always need to be checked for change of use, but to have public hearings and public reviews to approve a legal change seems a bit extreme. I'll ask again, how does this better our communities and profession?
    I agree in general, and the reason for the public process is all the bad actors in the past.

    So this is the price of transparency and public process.

    Whether this is the cost of transparency in human society and of society as a whole is another matter, but look at pollution of our airfill and the efforts to keep information out of the public milieu. As soon as we start making polluters really responsible for their effluent, prices will go up.

    All this works together. You can blame planning on this (above-quoted) condition if you wish, but in my view the blame is misplaced. This is the human condition you describe, not the onerous process of a single profession.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Well said, ColoGL. What strikes me in reading these is the huge variation in how different jurisdictions would handle the same question. We all know that there are differences, but my sympathy for applicants not remembering the next step in my process is renewed. I'll be a little more understanding, I think.

    Hey, when do we get to hear what LP's "onerous process" is in comparison? I'm dying to know after reading all the responses to the original question....
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  19. #19
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well.....

    A simple building permit for a remodel, if any structural or electrical work will be done in the interior. Permit in 15 minutes to a few days and good to go.....welcome to Arizona No need to worry about parking since its restaurant to retail.
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  20. #20
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Just an administrative zoning permit for the sign the necessary building/electrical permits for the interior remodel. Pretty simple if you ask me.
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