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Mayor promises to change business permitting process

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner delivers her 2011 State of the City address last Friday. (File)
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner delivers her 2011 State of the City address last Friday. (File)

Mayor Mary Verner is promising to change the city’s permitting process in a new initiative unveiled last week in her State of the City address last week.

Business concerns over permitting were highlighted last year after the owners of a bed and breakfast in the West Central Neighborhood said they were forced to close because the city’s “change of use” process became a nightmare of miscommunication and bureaucracy. City officials said they were simply following fire code and other laws but acknowledged a need to streamline the process.

The “change of use process” kicks in when the business activity in a location changes and permitting rules shift.

Verner said last week that Mike Edwards, former president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, will lead the city’s review of the “change of use” process.

Rich Hadley, president and CEO of Greater Spokane Inc., the region’s Chamber of Commerce, said many local businesses have expressed concerns that the process is “onerous, lengthy and unpredictable.”

“We’re sure anxious to work on that with the city in a constructive and positive way,” he said.

Verner has listed six other projects to improve business in Spokane this year. They were crafted after reviewing results of an online business survey that the city sponsored last year.

Asked what among eight items the city could do to help foster businesses the most popular choice (marked by 41 percent as “very important”) was to improve and streamline the permitting process. Second was “improve public streets and infrastructure” (marked by 33.8 percent as “very important”). The survey had about 240 respondents.

Teresa Brum, Spokane’s business and development director, said the city will complete work on the seven initiatives this year,

Other projects include creation of a permitting checklist for small businesses and improving online access to business license and permitting information.

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