City of Austin dealing with building permit backlog


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 7:01 PM

AUSTIN -- Before you can add that new room onto your house or begin construction on your own little piece of paradise in the backyard, your project plans are put at the bottom of growing pile.

"Delays upon delays upon delays," said Peter Batterton. Batterton is a designer for Cody Pools and the vice president of the Austin Chapter of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, an organization that represents more than 50 pool builders.

"We have gone from what was in effect, a walk-in time-line where I could walk into the city in the morning, walk out with a permit, not too long later, to what we are being told is a 30 to 45 day lead time at best," said Batterton. 

"I don't think that anybody accurately predicted where we were going to be," said Donald Birkner, assistant director of planning and development review for the City of Austin. His office issues all of the building permits for residential and commercial construction.

"The economy had been down for a while and folks were kind of starting to realize it was turning around a little bit, and it kind of overwhelmed us," said Birkner.

Then some key members in his department resigned. Birkner now has six openings to fill.

"When you have increase in work load and less folks to do it, you get behind," said Birkner. 

To help expedite your permit process Birkner says people should go to the Development Assistance Center. The staff there helps homeowners figure out if the project they want to do is even possible. Once you make it past that point, Birkner says you just have to practice patience.

"We are doing everything that I know how to do and that my boss and everybody knows how to do to fill those vacancies and get them trained," Birkner added. 

Birkner says the backlog hasn't been this bad since 2006. His department is interviewing a few candidates next week hoping someone will be able to help them put a dent in the growing pile.

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