DeKalb County Permit Reform Process Begins: Council for Quality Growth Assists

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and CEO Burrell Ellis have made a substantial commitment to work together with the development community to reform the permitting process in DeKalb County. The much needed reforms will address every type of land development, building permit and business license. The 2013 Budget approved by the Commission includes $600,000 for Phase 1 to study and implement major reforms which are desperately needed to make DeKalb competitive in the Metro Region and throughout the country. Further multi-year investments in technology upgrades must be made to fully complete the project.

The Council for Quality Growth staff and members of the development community have been asked by Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Development Luz Borrero to sit on a Stakeholders Group and provide input as the County begins the process of permit reform. The 25-member rooster of the Stakeholders Group includes 14 members of the Council. COO Borrero has an aggressive goal of reform, with a completion date set for October 2014. The County recognizes the process is scattered, technology is too outdated to meet customer demands and days to issue a permit has increased. Along with a declining development fund, all present challenges but ones that are ready to be met for a new generation of economic growth.

Leadership in DeKalb is very concerned about areas of decline such as:

· Building permits have seen 50% decline in issuance since 2008;

· New construction constituted only 12% of all permits issued in 2012;

· A decrease in residential trade permits by 1,100 and commercial trade permits by 9,000 since 2008;

· The average number of days to issue all types of building permits continues to increase, and greatly exceeds many metro governments.

With a focus on streamlining operations and overhauling technology, the County understands the challenges before them. DeKalb is unique in their development framework and can use other models as examples, but must tailor reforms to match their specific needs. The $600,000 has been appropriated to focus on technology needs, such as software applications and hardware to allow for more online plan submitting and review. The County has already begun to focus on communications with the development community, changing the culture within the staff levels and looking at Best Practices and Model Jurisdictions Operation.