Lawmakers back private reviews to avoid building permit delays – WRAL News

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Commercial builders could bring in their own engineer or architect to sign off on construction plans when government permit offices get backed up under legislation moving this week at the North Carolina General Assembly.
Commercial builders could bring in their own engineer or architect to sign off on construction plans when government permit offices get backed up under legislation moving this week at the North Carolina General Assembly.
House Bill 291 is meant to relieve backlogs at local code enforcement offices and give the construction industry more certainty on timetables and prices—particularly in a volatile market, where delays can mean an upswing in material costs. The North Carolina League of Municipalities is pushing back against the measure, but the bill seems to have momentum.
The bill says local permit offices must complete initial plan reviews for commercial and multifamily buildings within 21 days of submission. If the permit office asks for additional information, or a resubmitted plan, it must act within 15 days of getting those answers. If the local office can’t hit those timetables it can bring in outside help from the state Department of Insurance or the private sector to help meet the 21-day requirement.
If the permit office misses that window, the building permit applicant can go to the private sector and have the plans approved by an architect or engineer of their choosing, as long as they're qualified by the state’s Code Officials Qualification Board. Once that person signs off on the plans, the local government must issue building permits within 72 hours, the bill says.
The N.C. League of Municipalities, which represents cities and towns around the state, told lawmakers Tuesday that the bill might have unintended consequences, pushing local officials to deny pending projects to restart the clock instead of working with a developer to resolve issues. The bill might “disassemble” permit offices’ current practices of running various approvals for a large project on simultaneous tracks, making it sequential instead to buy time, League Director of Government Affairs Erin Wynia said.
State senators discussing the bill said they’re open to other ideas to get projects moving faster.
“We challenge you to be better,” said Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus. “This is the only way we as legislators know to do it.”
House Bill 291 passed the House in May of last year on a bipartisan 79-33 vote. It cleared the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday and has two more committee stops before it hits the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it will head back to the House for more discussion because the bill has been amended since passing the House last year.
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