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Streamlining Local Permit Review Procedures

This page provides an overview of the legal requirements for project review and examples of permit review procedures as well as examples of streamlined processes.


Legal Requirements

Jurisdictions fully planning under the GMA must use all of the permit procedures outlined within Ch. 36.70B RCW to administer permit application processes, while only part of its requirements apply to non-GMA cities and counties.

In general, all cities and counties are required to develop an integrated and consolidated project permit review process that:

  • Combines both procedural and substantive environmental review with project permit review
  • Allows no more than one open record hearing and not more than one closed record appeal hearing on both the permit and environmental review, except for appeals of a SEPA determination of significance.

For more information on Washington's local project review requirements, see Integrated Project Review, Chapter 3 (G), A Short Course on Local Planning Resource Guide


Examples of Local Permit Review Procedures

Having a clear and consistently applied permit review process is of benefit to everyone, whether you are an applicant or developer, local citizen, or municipal staffer.

The following are examples of Washington local government permit review procedures. They are generally consistent with Washington state goals and requirements for an integrated project permit review process that handles permits in a timely and fair manner.


Examples of Streamlined Permit Procedures

Shorter permit processing times will save applicants time. They can also save significant money when there are costs associated with holding property until it is put to productive use. A shorter permit process may also be easier on citizens who are interested in observing the process, since it will not require such a sustained effort. A streamlined process generally can be accomplished without sacrificing adequate review, as these examples illustrate.

Administrative Approvals

Less complex projects with fewer likely impacts can often be handled through a simplified process which may include approvals by designated staff.

Expedited Review

Some communities provide the option for an expedited review for an added fee, as convenience for applicants with pressing time needs. Others provide expedited review for certain types of development that the community wishes to encourage.

Online Application Submittal and Other Online Tools to Assist Applicants

Online applications can save on delivery time and cost. They also result in digital documents that can be reviewed simultaneously by different departments.

Permit Tracking

  • Redmond E-Track Portal - Allows applicants to track progress on permit application and improves city processes by automating permitting, inspections, enforcement cases, land use planning, and project review.
  • Mukilteo Online Permit Center - Allows applicant to access current status of permits, permit reports, inspection requests and activity, as well as access to reference material and documentation.

Combined Public Hearings

Pre-Application Meeting

Although a preapplication meeting may seem like an extra step, a preliminary meeting between applicants and permit review staff can clarify an understanding about the applicant's intentions and needs. It can also clarify the full extent of requirements and ultimately avoid costly misunderstandings and delays.

Other Streamlining Measures


Examples of Permit Procedure Studies

A number of local jurisdictions have conducted studies and developed recommendations for improving permit processing and customer satisfaction. The Governor's Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) has prepared a useful report summarizing best permitting practices principles: Local Government Permitting: Best Practices (2008).

The State Auditor's Office Local Government Performance Center (now the Center for Government Innovation) conducted four case studies of counties that have implemented practices to cut permitting time and has provided brief summaries of each: Lessons Learned: How counties are improving permitting processes.

County

City


Examples of Monitoring / Annual Development Permit Reports

This section includes selected examples of permit monitoring and annual permit reports from cities and counties in Washington State. RCW 36.70B.080(2)(b) requires certain cities and counties to prepare annual performance reports regarding development permit applications. These jurisdictions include six counties in Western Washington (Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston) and cities within those counties with a population of 20,000 or more. A number of cities and counties outside of the Puget Sound area are also monitoring permit activity.

The following reports provide information that can help officials to recognize growth trends and activity, to measure performance, and to flag potential areas for improvement of the permitting process.

County

City


Recommended Resources


Last Modified: September 23, 2019