Montgomery Co. speeds up permit process

Isiah Leggett (file photo)County Executive Isiah Leggett on Tuesday announced that residents and businesses will now be able to apply for county permits online, another move the county said proves it’s making the permitting process faster and easier.

The system will let people apply online and electronically file plans to get electrical, deck, new home and right-of-way permits. The county says home additions and commercial permits will be added to the online permitting system later this year.

Leggett held a press conference on Tuesday, surrounded by the typical amount of paper involved in applying for a county permit.

Assuming the typical annual amount of 3,000 permit applications and 12,000 plans, the county estimated it will save residents and businesses a total of 312,000 miles in car trips to the Department of Permitting Services’ Rockville offices. That would mean savings of 20,800 gallons of gas and $72,000 in fuel costs as well as the elimination of 12,480 hours of driving time.

The county said it would mean saving almost 2.5 million sheets of paper, equivalent to 239 trees.

But it’s no doubt geared to remove some of the permitting burden for businesses, many of which have complained about Montgomery County’s process for years.

Other recent Permitting Services improvements include cheaper automation fees, a 50 percent reduction for all permits and licenses, reduced fees for mid-rise construction and, two years ago, the transfer of fire safety inspections from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services to DPS.

That’s a change the county said has eliminated up to six weeks of delay for new businesses to open and saved those businesses an estimated $1 million in the transfer’s first two years.

Earlier this month, Doug Duncan — one of Leggett’s opponents for county executive in the June Democratic primary — said an online permitting system was one of his goals for more efficient county web services.

A “Leadership In Action” plan released by Duncan’s campaign said the online permitting system would “cut through the red tape that can be arduous and be a high barrier to entry.”

In a press release, the county pointed out that the online permitting system was already up and running. The county said that in just two months of the ePermits system, 35 percent of applications for new home permits and half of all electrical permits issued online.

DPS Director Diane Schwartz Jones said ePermits has helped her department eliminate a backlog for electrical permits.

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