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Streamlining 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 staff person. 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- Local Project Review, to administer permit application processes, while only part of its requirements apply to non-GMA cities and counties. The initiative behind this state law started in 1995, when the State Legislature enacted “regulatory reform” legislation (ESHB 1724) for the purpose of simplifying and integrating the various state land use and environmental regulations. 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
  • Allow 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


Local Permit Review Procedures

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.

  • Clallam County Code Ch. 26.10 - Consolidated Development Permit Process
  • Clark County Code
  • Deer Park Municipal Code Title 19 - Integrated Project Review
  • Gig Harbor Municipal Code Title 19 - Administration of Development Regulations
  • Mill Creek Municipal Code Title 14 - Development Code Administration
  • Renton Municipal Code Ch. 4-8 - Permits - General and Appeals
  • Shoreline Municipal Code Ch. 20.30 - Procedures and Administration
  • Sumner Municipal Code Ch. 18.56 - Procedures for Land Use Permits
  • Yakima County Code Title 16B - Project Permit Administration

Specific Examples of Measures to Streamline 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.

  • Bellevue Get Permits Online - Uses common, easy-to-use permitting portal that makes it possible to get simple permits from Bellevue and nine other participating jurisdictions (MyBuildingPermit.com).
  • Clark County Maps Online - Online maps related to property development are available to applicants as a resource.
  • Clark County Final Plat Review and Recording - Scroll to Digital Plat Submission Guidelines (page 5).
  • Kirkland Electronic Plan Submittal Application Process - Single family electronic submittal
  • Pierce County Applying for Permits - Opportunity to submit applications online, online septic tank as built look up, parcel research tools, and opportunity to submit questions to Development Center staff.

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 memo to council regarding approval of Permit Tracking Project and attached agreement. Memo summarizes functions and features of system.

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


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, 08/2008. The State Auditor's Office Performance Center 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


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

  • Clark County Community Development Data & Reports - Quarterly and annual reports on land use permit activity. The annual report also shows how the average time to issue a permit depends in part on the duration of holds requested by the applicant. Also reports on building permit issuance and valuation, code enforcement, and related subjects.
  • Jefferson County Department of Community Development 2012 Annual Report - Nicely done report with the year's highlights, development permit activity, other types of accomplishments, and performance relative to a good set of performance indicators with effective graphics.
  • King County Data and Reports - Well done buildable lands (land supply), annual growth, and benchmark reports.
  • Kitsap County
    • Miscellaneous DCD Permit Statistics - Set of quick-to-use weekly, monthly, and annual reports and performance measures.
    • Department of Community Development Annual Reports - Pulls together department permit statistics, activities and performance measures in brief report.
  • Snohomish County

City


Last Modified: March 07, 2018