City of Austin says relief coming for building permit backlog


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 7:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 7:21 PM

AUSTIN --  A City of Austin reviewer takes about one hour to approve a less complex building permit that's filled out correctly. A more complex permit takes a reviewer three hours. So why does the city have a backlog dating back to November 2012?

"I had lost enough staff from March to October to where I had sort of lost the review capacity because we perform three levels of service here," said City of Austin Development Services Manager John McDonald.

McDonald's team takes in applications, consults homeowners and approves applications. His staff decreased by six last year, the same time permit applications increased.

And now an application that could be approved in just one day is taking months to be approved.

"We're seeing anywhere from 60 to 90 days," said David Davison with the Austin Chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI). "Well you can imagine what that does to small contractors, who, you know, they need to feed their families."

Pool and spa contractors are also suffering.

"A lot of pool builders, they might build a dozen pools a year; well if they have to hold up a month or two, how do they feed their family?" said Rusty Signor of the Central Pool Association.

City staff says there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They call the massive backlog "rock bottom." The six job vacancies have been filled and the new staff members should be fully trained in two months.

Plus, Austin City Council approved spending about $188,000 Tuesday to create four new positions for the department.

"These positions are dedicated to those functions to where the reviewers have the full eight hours everyday to do reviews," McDonald said.

Contractors are also doing their part. The Central Pool Association and the City created a course and test. If contractors pass, the City will approve their permits within ten days.

"This is a blessing, not only for the pool builders, but it is going to bring up the standard and quality of pools in the city," said Singor. 

John McDonald and the NARI are also teaming up with the City to be proactive.

McDonald said the turnaround time for applications will get back to what it used to be, and that contractors could start seeing faster approvals in as little as two months.

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