A constant concern heard from those in the construction and development industry is that they cannot get building permits issued in a timely manner.

Under the current law a contractor has no choice but to wait as long as it takes to get permits approved by local governments.

However, all that will change if House Bill 332, that passed the state House earlier this month and has been sent to the Senate, becomes law.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Zenger (R-Forsyth) would allow local governments 21 days to approve building permits. If a permit is not approved in 21 days or if the local government determines that it will be unable to meet that timeline the applicant can contract with a licensed professional engineer or licensed architect approved by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, to perform independent third party plan reviews.  Once the third party reviewer approves the plans the local government has three days to issue the permits.

In addition the local government is required to refund or waive all applicable plan review and permit fees for the project when the permits are issued if the 21 day time limit is not met.

House Bill 332 also gives local governments the ability to contract with licensed professional engineers and licensed architects approved by the Department of Insurance to conduct third party plan reviews. Independent third party plan reviews would have to be completed under the same time constraints as plan reviews done by local government employees.

The bill titled “An Act to Expedite the Approval of Sealed Commercial and Multi-Family Building Plans by Local Governments” passed the House with an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of 105 to 11.  A bill with that level of support in the state House would be expected to pass the Senate.

Although allowing plans to be reviewed by certified third party reviewers is new to North Carolina it has been used in other states with the success one would expect. The bill gives local governments an incentive to get plans approved in a timely manner, since if they don’t they give up the fees and also allows two options to move the process along quicker. The local government has the option of hiring third party reviewers and if the local government chooses not to do so, the applicants have that option.