September 10, 2011 in Washington Voices

Permit process addressed

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location
No council meeting

The City announced this week that the City Council meeting scheduled for Sept. 13 has been canceled due to a light agenda and the absence of three council members. The next council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave.

Spokane Valley’s new community development director, John Hohman, presented his action plan to improve the city’s permit process to the City Council this week, calling it a “roadmap.”

The department has several challenges facing it, but the biggest one is its negative perception in the community, Hohman said. The roots of the discontent can probably be traced back to 2007, he said.

“We had too many projects in the door and not enough people to review them,” he said. Projects dragged on for a long time. “The perception is, the codes are onerous and our staff is not here to help you. I really need to turn around that perception.”

There are some problems with the city code, he said. “We really rushed to try and get the code in place when the city incorporated,” he said. Reviewing and revising the development code is one of the 12 tasks he is undertaking to improve the permitting process, he said.

Hohman would also like to expand express permitting for simple things like sign permits “to really get those cranked out as fast as possible,” he said. He’d like to be able to do some permits right there at the counter. “We do have a large number of smaller permits,” he said.

Councilman Dean Grafos endorsed Hohman’s plan to combine permitting and planning staff in one location to make more of a one-stop shopping experience. “I remember when I could take in plans for four new houses at 7:30 in the morning and pick them up at 2 or 3,” he said.

Hohman said he’d also like to streamline procedures and forms, begin hosting developer forums to improve communication and start a permit tracking system once new permitting software is up and running.

Hohman’s report was well received by the council. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Councilman Chuck Hafner.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” said Grafos.

In other business, the council heard presentations from economic development agencies who are requesting funding from the city. Every year the city sets aside money to be given to social service agencies and economic development agencies. This year a total of 15 agencies are requesting $274,000 in funding, though the city has only earmarked $150,000 for distribution. The council is scheduled to vote on how much to give each agency at the Sept. 27 council meeting.

The agencies requesting funding Tuesday were:

Greater Spokane Incorporated, $51,000

Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, $21,100

International Trade Alliance, $30,000

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, $4,051

The HUB Sports Center, $9,408

Valleyfest, $40,000.


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