King County renames, reorganizes permitting agency

September 19, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. Sept. 19, 2012

In response to changes in unincorporated King County, leaders renamed and reorganized the county permitting agency Monday, as officials prepare to relocate the permitting office from Renton to Snoqualmie.

In a unanimous decision, King County Council members approved a measure to reorganize the Department of Development and Environmental Services and rename the agency as the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review.

The responsibilities for the agency do not change with the reorganization and the name switch.

Officials plan to move the agency office closer to customers, and start shifting operations to Snoqualmie late next month.

“This reorganization is good news for our property owners in the rural areas, who will find a better coordinated permitting process in consolidated offices that soon will be relocated to Snoqualmie,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, representative for Issaquah and the Snoqualmie Valley, said in a statement.

The existing agency is responsible for issuing building and land use permits for properties located in unincorporated areas. The agency also enforces county land use and building codes, staffs the King County Fire Marshal Division, and issues business licenses.

The ordinance streamlines operations from the current four divisions into a single division. The goal is to shift a longstanding assembly-line approach of reviewing permits to a more coordinated style meant to reduce layers of supervision and create a more customer–friendly process.

“This is a downsizing related to the economy as well as streamlining that is responsive to changing needs,” Lambert said. “As part of King County’s efforts to increase efficiency in operations, these revised permitting procedures will reduce costs and, at the same time, improve the experience for customers while locating the agency closer to the people they serve.”

Officials established the current organizational structure and responsibilities for the agency in 1995. The agency handled more permits and more types of permits, and included more staffers, back then. But annexations and in corporations reduced the number of people in unincorporated King County, shrinking the agency’s customer base and permit volumes.

The nature of permitting activity also changed. Nowadays, staffers handle mostly single-family uses within unincorporated urban areas, such as Klahanie, and resource-related uses in the rural areas.

“This legislation is responsive to the changing population and customer base of unincorporated King County,” Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn. “Unincorporated and an increasingly more rural King County are now the primary customers for DPER, so we are creating an agency that supports the services they require, expect and deserve.”

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