Many apply before increase in permit costs

Bainbridge Island’s planning department was a little busier the last two weeks of August as residents and developers submitted building permits ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline when new permit fees went into effect.

The department saw a modest increase in visits at the front counter inquiring about which permits they needed to develop, redevelop or remodel on their property.

Patty Charnas, planning and community development director, said the public seemed to understand that fees had not been increased in 15 years and that costs have increased over that time. The city has been using the general fund to pay the difference.

“People also seem to understand that the city needs to cover the costs of permit processing in a more realistic way. We are also looking to build better efficiencies in the department to help expedite permit processing,” she said.

Charnas said the city has been working on making the permit tracking software, SmartGov, function better for staff and applicants, which helps in permit processing. “We have also put a greater focus on the city’s website and Camino program to help future applicants in knowing what permits they need and the process for submitting,” she said.

On Aug. 31, the department received 31 permit submissions, which is an unusually high number for one day, “probably due to the increase in permit fees taking effect tomorrow,” said Shannon Hays, city communications coordinator.

For August there were 236 permits submitted, an 82% increase compared to the same month last year.

The city accepts some permit applications online, but all other permits are via electronic email submission.

“Every permit comes in through an electronic platform. The department does not accept any across-the-counter permit submissions. We continue to work toward all permits being processed online over email,” Hays said.