3,000 building permits to expire Thursday

December 29, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

About 3,000 Howard County building permits will expire jTC Thursday because the work was either never done or never inspected.

Most of the permits have been sitting around for years, says David M. Hammerman, director of the Department of Licenses, Inspections, and Permits.

Holders of old permits can keep them active by asking for an inspection or seeking an extension before the Thursday deadline, Mr. Hammerman said.

County Auditor Ronald S. Weinstein had recommended the mass cancellation after discovering that the work authorized in 3,003 building permits had not been inspected within the past six months.

Permit holders must begin building within six months unless granted an extension. Starting Jan. 1, permit holders will have a year in which to begin work. For "good cause," they may receive two extensions of up to six months each.

It is the builders' responsibility to ask for inspections.

The fact that 3,000 permit holders never asked for an inspection doesn't imply anything is amiss, Mr. Hammerman said. "Most of the permits were minor. There were no incidents of anything harmful."

When the inspections office was elevated to department status on July 1, 1989, it "inherited thousands of old permits in which no work was done and no requests [for inspections] were made," Mr. Hammerman said.

In addition, many builders requested more permits than they could use to beat the deadline for an 18-month cap on residential construction imposed by the county in September 1989.

"To address [the 3,000 unused permits] would produce very few results," Mr. Hammerman said. Rather than assign inspectors to "the time-consuming work of chasing phantom projects," the department concentrated on new construction projects, he said.

Soon, however, the department will be able to follow up on unused permits as well as inspect new work, thanks to a computer program the county expects to be using by May, Mr. Hammerman said. "We will have the capacity to follow through and we will," Mr. Hammerman said.

The automated inspection request system will not only allow the department to track building permits, it also will allow builders to track the status of their projects.

"They will be able to determine the status of a building permit 24 hours a day -- is the permit ready or is it not ready," Mr. Hammerman said. If the permit is not ready, the system will tell the builder where the permit is and why, he said.

If for example, permits are awaiting health department approval, builders will be told what steps are needed next to speed the process along, Mr. Hammerman said.

The system will allow Mr. Hammerman's department to attack the problem of dormant permits, he said. If after a year, no inspection has been requested or no extension granted, the computer will alert an inspector and the builder will be contacted. An unused permit will be canceled.

"I don't want our citizens to think that because of a lot of unused permits we had inadequate inspectors," Mr. Hammerman said. "We have high-quality inspectors doing the job, making inspections" to assure public health and safety.

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