A discussion of pending improvements to the building permitting and inspections process got testy last Thursday night, as members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) couldn’t seem to agree on whether Code Enforcement officials or customers were the source of the problems.
LUESA Director Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi made a detailed presentation to the BOCC on current steps his department is taking to improve customer service and eliminate inconsistencies in the permitting process. Some of those steps include:
Hiring of Customer Service Manager and Customer Liaisons
Changes to improve the efficiency of the plan revision (RTAP) process
Evaluating the need for mandatory plan pre-submittal meetings
The creation of a single-portal permitting system for the County and City
But it was the mention of improved industry outreach strategies that led a heated debate between commissioners. When Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour expressed his frustration about continuing to hear about poor customer service from county code officials, Commissioners Dumont Clark and George Dunlap both suggested the problem wasn’t as big as the industry was making it out to be, and may in part be due to builders not taking responsibility for reading e-mails from the Code Enforcement department about policy and process changes.
“The notion of communication seems to run through all of this,” Clark said, after hearing about the low levels of response to Code Enforcement e-mails. “I want a system that’s customer-service friendly, but there’s got to be some personal responsibility on the other end, as well.”
Commissioner Dunlap said he was skeptical about the scope of the industry complaints, and suggested that many builders were unwilling to take the time to learn how Mecklenburg County’s permitting process worked. “People need to recognize that there has been a tremendous amount of improvement already,” he said. “We do ourselves a disservice when we only listen to one side.”
Those comments drew an angry rebuke from Ridenhour, who said he had done substantial homework on the issue — meeting with Code Enforcement officials, visiting job sites, and riding along on inspections.
Commissioners Pat Cotham and Jim Puckett were not in attendance at Thursday night’s meeting.
You can view the presentation and the discussion that followed on the County website. Fast-forward to 2:57:00 for the presentation, and to 3:32:20 for the commissioners’ follow-up questions.
On March 3rd, the Building-Development Commission will discuss a detailed series of process recommendations from an industry task force, and begin establishing an implementation strategy. The BOCC will receive a presentation on these recommendations, along with details on the joint County-City Gartner Group study, at their March 24th meeting.
REBIC will continue to work with both the County and the City of Charlotte to improve the permitting and inspection process, and encourage any builders, developers or contractors who are dealing with obstacles to contact LUESA Director Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi at (704) 534-6588 or via e-mail.