King County renames, reorganizes permitting agency

October 16, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

In response to a population decline in unincorporated King County, leaders renamed and reorganized the county permitting agency Sept. 17, as officials prepare to relocate the 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.

The department issues building and land-use permits for properties in unincorporated areas, such as Klahanie, Mirrormont and Preston. The agency also enforces county land-use and building codes, staffs the King County Fire Marshal Division and issues business licenses.

In recent years, officials streamlined the permitting process, implemented flat fees for some permits and started same-day reviews for some projects.

What to know

The renamed and reorganized King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review permanently closes in Renton on Oct. 19 and opens at 35030 S.E. Douglas St., Suite 210, Snoqualmie, on Oct. 23.

The changes remade a department Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn once described as “the worst-run agency in county government” until leaders implemented reforms

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

Dunn and the representative for Issaquah and the Snoqualmie Valley, Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, praised the decision to overhaul the department.

“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,” Lambert said in a statement.

The ordinance adopted by the council streamlines operations from four divisions into one. The goal is to shift a longstanding assembly-line approach for reviewing permits into a more coordinated style.

“This legislation is responsive to the changing population and customer base of unincorporated King County,” Dunn said in a statement. “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.”

Officials established the current organizational structure and responsibilities for the Department of Development and Environmental Services in 1995. The agency handled more permits and more types of permits, and included more staffers, back then.

But annexations and incorporations 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.

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