Industry Receives Update on Recommended Changes to City/County Plan Review & Permitting Process

Gartner1Members of the Charlotte real estate industry received a comprehensive briefing this week on a series of recommendations made by Gartner Consulting on ways to improve the city and county development review and construction permitting process.

The meeting, which was organized by REBIC and the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, gave industry members a chance to comment on the Gartner recommendations, which suggest a fundamental change in the existing governance structure that currently splits oversight between Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, and the six towns.

You can download the latest version of the Gartner executive summary HERE.

The report, which was recently amended to include feedback from industry stakeholders, is the result of more than six months of interviews and independent assessments of processes in both the City and County that oversee development plan review, construction permitting and building inspections. It stems from a series of letters delivered early this year to the City Council and Board of Commissioners from REBIC, the Apartment Association and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, which called for improvements in the timeliness and effectiveness of the overall permitting process.

Currently there is a lack of coordination and collaboration between the City and County and governance does not effectively span City and County resulting in efforts that should be coordinated being performed unilaterally, from execution of daily tactical operations to strategic initiatives.”

— Gartner Report

The most significant recommendation in the Gartner report calls for the creation of a “unified development services governance structure” to improve city/county collaboration on plan review, permitting and inspections. The report suggests the creation of a ‘Unified Development Services Committee’, comprised of senior managers from both the City and County, along with representatives from the six Towns and the development industry. The goal of the new committee would be to achieve a “seamless City/County/Town land development and building construction services partnership, organized, governed and incentivized to provide high-quality service delivery that consistently exceeds customer expectations.”

Lack of a joint City/County philosophy and the current approach to customer service activities with a finite staff compound the disconnect with customer base seeking responsiveness, simplicity and human interaction.”

— Gartner Report

In addition to the new governance structure, the report makes six other key recommendations to improve the permitting process:

  1. Redesign Unified Customer Service Model and Tailor to Different Customer Segments
  2. Orchestrate Cultural Shift and Enhance Partnership with Industry
  3. Simplify, Educate and Establish Accountability on Delivery of Development Services
  4. Plan and Manage Technology Collaboratively to Address Gaps, Redundancy, and Inefficiency
  5. Improve Consistency of Code Interpretation and Application
  6. Enhance Measurement of Success to Align with Customers, Drive Desired Behaviors and Increase Predictability

Some of the specific action items the report recommended include:

  • Integrate or Consolidate City and County Permitting Systems and Plan Review Systems
  • Establish Quality Control and Accountability Metrics
  • Establish Customer Satisfaction Metrics
  • Develop a Joint City/County Portal Strategy (for submission of development & building plans)
  • Evaluate Demand and Current Workload to Ensure Adequate Staffing Levels
  • Provide Improved Access to Development Services Information and Educational Tools
  • Conduct Analysis of Co-location Options for City and County Staff
  • Review the role of the County’s Building/Development Commission

REBIC will continue to work with both Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte in the coming months to evaluate and implement the recommendations in the Gartner Report, with the goal of achieving lasting improvements in the permitting and inspections process.

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