Planning department busier than most

POULSBO — As commercial and residential developments in Little Norway continue gaining speed, the city’s planning department is struggling to keep pace with the growing demand.

The planning departments in Bremerton and Shelton handled a combined 92 applications for new single family residences, while Poulsbo exceeded that with the first residential application in Olhava, which proposes building 173 single family-residences.

Shelton operates with a two-person planning staff, consisting of the planning director and one planner, while Bremerton has a director of community development and three planners. Port Orchard also operates a two-person planning department.

Currently, Poulsbo has a planning director, a senior planner, two full-time associate planners and one part-time associate planner.

By the end of October 2005, the department had received 154 planning permits compared to 136 at the end of October 2004.

The hiring of two building inspectors should help alleviate the backlog of builders waiting for inspections as the city will now be able to conduct five-day-a-week inspections, Planning Director Barry Berezowsky told the city council’s public works committee Jan. 25.

The inspectors will also be able to help with plan reviews, which the city sometimes pays outside consultants to conduct when it is too swamped to perform them in a timely manner, Berezowsky said. Consultants are paid on average 65 percent of what the city charges for the planning permit for the plans that are being reviewed.

However, with the recent approval of commercial and business park short plats in Olhava and the continuing increase in permit activity, another planner is needed to handle the permitting process, Berezowsky said.

In asking for another planner, Berezowsky also broached the issue of another permit fee increase with the committee.

“I think with these we’re probably still in the middle of the road with other jurisdictions,” he said.

With the city implementing a hearing examiner system to approve various permits and hear appeals of land use decisions, the consultant/hearing examiner deposit will be required for appeals, binding site plans, planned unit developments and a host of other permits.

“These fee increases represent the amount of work required to do this type of work,” Berezowsky explained.

The planning department has been unable to tackle the revision of the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance and long-range planning, because its staff is spending its time processing permit applications, he added.

The city council will vote on the permit fee increases at tonight’s meeting and a decision on adding another planner is expected to be made in the near future.

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