A Select Committee of the Mecklenburg County Building-Development Commission (BDC) met for a second time last week to continue its review of possible improvements to the permitting and inspections process that the County has been analyzing for much of this year. Here’s some of what was discussed:
The first series of 17 Focus Groups has been completed, and follow-up meetings will be scheduled sometime in August. Coordinated by an outside consultant hired by the County and City, these groups allowed Code Enforcement customers to sound off on their impressions of what works — and what doesn’t work — in the current permitting process.
While more than 1,000 inspections are being conducted each day, Code Enforcement managers pointed out the challenge of providing same-day inspections for complex projects, particularly those in the multifamily and commercial sectors. They suggested that jobs needing more than an hour to inspect needed to be scheduled at least a week in advance to allow the department to ensure sufficient resources are allocated.
Industry representatives said that after-hours and weekend inspections were often the only way to get large projects reviewed in a timely manner, and that these projects were being forced to pay a premium price for inspection blocks longer than one hour.
The committee agreed to hold a more in-depth discussion of why the County won’t often accept an engineer’s sealed design on building elements their inspectors are unqualified to review.
The committee also agreed to work on a process to resolve disagreements on code interpretation between the general contractor and the building inspector, and to determine ways to bring in the plan reviewer or project manager to resolve these disputes in a timely manner. It was also suggested that inspectors be included in the plan review process, where possible, to anticipate issues that may come up in the field.
One recurring theme in the meeting was the need for the County to better communicate to the industry the range of service options for large commercial or multifamily projects. Both Code Enforcement and the industry representatives agreed that the voluntary Preliminary Construction Meeting was a critical part of the inspections process, but that not all agencies were always present to address issues. County officials said this was something they were continuing to address.
REBIC will continue to work with Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte to improve the permitting and inspections process in the months ahead.