County is pruning bureaucratic rules that slow building permits for homes

December 24, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Developers seeking to build in Baltimore County must go through months of bureaucratic and public scrutiny before they can begin.

Then, even though the project has been approved, they have to endure another review for each home's individual building permit. County officials say this second step is needless duplication -- and it's going to stop.

Starting Jan. 1, the second review will be dropped, and developers' engineers will be held responsible for certifying compliance with county policies. Currently, county workers check for compliance.

Though the change sounds like a simple, logical elimination of duplication, county Permits and Licenses Director Ted Zaleski's eyebrows have grown gray in the 10 years since he first suggested the idea.

This time, however, he had county Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly on his side. Mr. Kelly liked the suggestion and got County Executive Roger B. Hayden to approve the change.

0$ For a county trying to live down

an anti-business reputation, the change is another in a series of moves designed to speed-up the approval process for developers, yet give concerned residents a greater say in

development decisions.

Jay Weiss, president of the Ashley Group Ltd., a developer and builder working in the northwestern county, said the change is "a very positive move. It will be a definite help."

Citizen complaints about development have declined dramatically since the county began a new review process last year. The process requires a community information meeting before any official approvals are sought. David S. Thaler, an engineer whose firm works for several developers, said the reform shortened the approval process by six to 12 months. Mr. Thaler also applauded the rules change that goes into effect next month.

"I think it's terrific," he said.

The policy is expected to take 30 days to 45 days off the processing time for roughly 20 percent of the county's building permits. It also should save county workers innumerable hours of laborious clerical work.

The new policy only applies to developers who also build their projects. It does not apply to builders who buy a piece of land prepared by a developer, or to homes that depend on well water and septic systems.

Arnold Jablon, the county's zoning administrator, said the county has more control over developers, who must post performance bonds to guarantee their public works agreements and storm water management plans. Builders provide no such guarantees.

The new policy can save builders a few days in the review process if they certify that the information provided by developers hasn't changed, Mr. Jablon said. Builders also would enjoy another indirect benefit. With less permits to process, county workers can do the remaining work faster, Mr. Zaleski said.

"It will take people out of the waiting line," he said.

The engineers who assume responsibility for complying with county policies must certify that the homes are not being built in an area where the county has banned construction due to school overcrowding or traffic congestion.

Any professional engineer who knowingly certifies false information would risk sanctions by his profession and by the county, Mr. Jablon said.

John Colvin, a principal in Questar properties, which would be affected by the policy change, praised the county's latest effort.

"Anything that expedites the process is a good idea," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.