By Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager
(Monday, June 4, 2018) – May was Building Safety Month. Interestingly, the City issues more than 5,000 building permits each year. Many of these permits relate to average home or condominium renovations to a kitchen, bathroom, or replacement of a door or window. The most common concern of residents living in single-family homes or condominiums is how long the building permit process takes. Here is some important information on that permit process.
First, a building permit cannot be issued without the legally-required paperwork and a complete set of plans. These documents ensure each project complies with all building codes. Second, it is often wise to hire a licensed contractor, as they are familiar with these codes and the process. Depending on the size and extent of the project, it may take anywhere from one day to several weeks for the Building Department to review the submission. The length of time it takes for issuance of a permit also varies depending on whether the original submission is complete. In our experience, most times the “delay” in the issuance of the permit relates to the City waiting to receive the proper paperwork and complete plans. Our hands are tied with this. A permit cannot be issued unless it complies with the codes, and the Building Department cannot perform any review until it has a complete application. Sometimes the City and contractor go back and forth several times until everything is complete and compliant.
The good news is that all of this is documented and tracked by a computer application known as SmartGov. It keeps track of the amount of time the Building Department puts in to review the plans, the exact date the contractor was notified that their permit is ready, or that their application is not complete. The software is accurate and provides information that allows us to update and enhance our processes, if necessary. We are always looking to improve efficiency.
We used our Business Intelligence program to conduct an evaluation of the past year as to the amount of time that a residential project application was under review by the Building Department, versus in the hands of a contractor/owner. In a year’s time, from March 2017 to March 2018, building permit applications spent most of the processing time in the hands of the applicant or contractor. The Building Department had possession, during the process, for less than 27 percent of the time for six of the months and less than 37 percent of the time for five months, with only February and March 2018 hitting a percentage at or above 50 percent due to a building department personnel shortage. After that spike, the percentage, which the department spent processing a permit, returned to more normal numbers by April.
Once again, if you are having delays and are not sure why, we urge you to check the Internet portal at sibfl.net/building-dept or call us at 305.947.2150. Of course, you may visit us in person. You can also help yourself, and us, to move your application along through the process by picking up a copy of our new Building Permit Guide, available online or on the 3rd floor in the Sunny Isles Beach Government Center.