Red tape, bureaucracy and crossed signals have unnecessarily trippedup builders and hurt their industry at a time of extreme economic difficulty, developers and building contractors told county officials in no uncertain terms yesterday.
Business people aired their concerns for County Executive Robert R. Neall and a panel of department heads during a forum sponsored by the Anne Arundel Trade Council.
Through the three-hour forum, the first of its kind for the tradecouncil, the group hoped to open lines of communication, eliminate an often adversarial relationship between government and private industry and speed the industry's recovery, said President Kathryn J. Dahl.
"We have to give up the we/they process, work together and see if we can get through the down time successfully," said Dahl, of the law office of Linowes & Blocher.
Builders, contractors and engineers complained of long delays in getting approval for development plans. Heads of departments often issue stop-work orders without offering solutions to alleged offenses or impose conflicting demands on developers, several builders said.
"They have different visions," said developer Wally Baker. "Public Works sees things one way and the environmental division sees it the other way. They're excellent in their departments, but crossing over from the departments is a nightmare."
"Eventually they'll work it out," added Annapolis attorney Harry Blumentha, "but that working out can take from a few months to in excess of a year."
Neall listened to concerns for the first hour. Before leaving, he assured the group he intends to streamline the process with an executive department restructuring, to be announced today,
intended to save money and make government more efficient. He told the group he plans to appoint someone to oversee the development process.
"One person is going to be in charge," Neall said. "You'll seeone-stop shopping, new faces and new roles and functions."
Members of the 10-person panel defended their departments, saying they believe the development community shares the blame for slowing projects in many cases.
Many times, they said, officials get incomplete plans from engineers who fail to abide by county laws or requirements.
"We chop up drawings because people aren't trained," said Linton Pumphrey, chief of development services in the Department of Public Works. "We don't have a mandate to just chop up drawings."
But John Dodds, of developer Michael T. Rose Co., said "a lot of engineers stopped submitting 100 percent complete drawings because they get torn apart and redesigned."
Panelists and group members agreed that the county should set up a method of training and certifying private-sectorengineers to keep them up to date on county requirements.