Building department relocates to City Hall
The most recent of on-going efforts to improve the City’s development process has transpired with the relocation of the City’s Building department to its new location in City Hall’s lobby area.
Visitors to City Hall can use three spots in the City Hall parking lot or reserved parking across State Street marked for “City Administration” use while doing business at City offices. The Building department has coordinated its public hours to more closely align with City Planning’s customer service hours. The Building department’s hours are Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 pm) and by appointment.
These actions are part of a number of steps to improve permit processing and building inspections. “We can provide better customer service by answering a quick question when someone walks in, and we make a point of having someone here during these hours,” relayed Building Official Danielle Meyers.
Efficiency is not only important to the public, it’s important to the Building department, too. In 2018, the City had a record year with 411 permit applications, compared to 354 in 2017. Although 2019 permits will return closer to 2017’s figure, all departments involved in permitting services (Building, Planning, Engineering and Fire departments) are working on ways to improve, streamline, and offer a more predictable review process to help administer and enforce state (structural and mechanical) building codes within the City of Hood River.
The Building department was brought in-house in early 2019 after outsourcing to Clair Company. To meet customer service demands and timelines, the City continues to rely on a handful of third-party service providers for inspections and other services, which Meyers feels important to maintain. “Third-party contractors bring vast regional perspective and a lot of experience to the plate that’s hard for a small department in a small city with a high day-to-day workload to attain,” Meyers says. “We continue to explore options to partner for improving productivity and swiftness of services.”
Development process improvements are part of a larger effort towards a City Council 2019 work plan goal of creating opportunities for an inclusive and diverse housing inventory. Earlier this year, the City initiated a series of process and regulatory updates based on internal and external stakeholder feedback. These included updated application forms and manuals, updated ADU regulations, updated Engineering Standards, preparing for expedited land divisions, and development of a project intake checklist for Building and Engineering permits. A Permit Enhancement Project will be considered as a next step toward streamlining and tracking internal processes through development permit reviews.
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