During the last week of July, I received two calls for help…one directly to me, and the other directed at all the Commissioners plus a bunch of City staffers. One was a plea for help getting permits that would enable the girls school to open; the other related to a commercial project on the IntraCoastal.

Girls School
The girls school issue I remember from at least two, maybe three years ago and thought that was completed long ago. The other has popped up several times. Had I not been asked to intercede, the school would not have gotten their TCO, which would have prevented them from getting financing and state approval by the July 29 deadline. The TCO was issued three days after my inquiry.

Commercial Project on the IntraCoastal
The commercial project, which I am guessing one of my colleagues championed, I believe has also been hanging around for some time, since this was not the first time it had been brought to my attention.

The City Commission now receives a Permit Status Report (I’ll call it) which shows the number of permits currently versus past year, in text and graphic form. What I would like to see is a clear policy and practice that says that any permit that has been open for a specific period time triggers a discussion of how to move the item forward: is the project alive? Is it dead? What is the hold up? Does the developer have clear direction, etc.

The permitting issue IS serious. When I take the elevator to the fourth floor at City Hall, invariably there are people on board getting off on 3, and most are working on permits. I wish them well. The process is inefficient and ineffective and everyone knows it, including staff.

I am counting on Tom Barnett, Director of Development Services, to streamline this. We clearly have to have better software and technology, but that can’t be an excuse for maintaining the status quo.

Tom and I had lunch and he has some practical ideas, so let’s be a little patient and give him and staff the opportunity to make it easier for people to get permits, and for all of us to track the permit progress in real time.

This is a moving target, but the target now has a spotlight on it.