The Island Guardain
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Editor's Note - County Council aproves more government bloat while still insisting on four day work week.

The San Juan County Council has approved a series of steps in an effort to improve services from the Department of Community Development (DCD). The County will begin contracting out services in the land use division, and hire an additional code enforcement officer, planning manager, and land use permit technician.    

The changes respond to a number of issues facing the department including long permit review times, difficulty in recruiting a director and sustaining long-term leadership, and increasingly low staff capacity. Reviewing and processing permits are core functions of county government that San Juan County is committed to improving.  

“We’ve heard the community’s concerns and are taking steps to improve the department’s ability to review permit requests in a timely and consistent manner,” said Council Chair Jane Fuller on behalf of the County Council.  

The County is already working with two firms to review building plans and review critical area reports. This support has provided additional review capacity for staff.  The County plans to contract with a third firm to review certain land use permits immediately and affected land use division staff have been given a ten-day job separation notice. Staff will be compensated with a tenure-based severance package.  

Council did not come to this decision lightly and recognizes the impact to these islanders. The Council is grateful for the staff’s contributions to the organization, but at this time, feels contracting services is necessary to meet the community’s needs.   

DCD staff will continue to interface with the public on land use applications. The firm will review application materials based on San Juan County Code and provide findings to staff.  

“This is not an outside firm making decisions about development in the islands,” said Interim DCD Director Mark Tompkins. “County staff will stay involved in the permitting process, be there to answer questions from the public, and ensure that development is compliant with County code.”    

The department asks for the public’s patience during this transition. DCD will be working with the consultant to onboard and get up to speed as quickly as possible, however, the change in review process will take some time to fully implement.  

The County is also beginning recruitment efforts for an additional Code Enforcement Officer, a Planning Manager, and a Land Use permit technician. These key positions will support the department as it strives to maintain building and land use standards across the County.  

Additionally, the County is working to update the Uniform Development Code (UDC) in an effort to make it clearer, more user-friendly, and in-line with current legislation. Pieces of the UDC have been amended over the years, but a comprehensive update of the entire Title 18 code will provide uniformity and eliminate redundancies. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is working alongside a consultant to update the code, engage the public for feedback, and ultimately bring an updated version to Council for adoption. 

Staff continue to update the DCD website to improve the user experience and to streamline the information gathering and application processes. Staff is expanding the SmartGov system to include all permits. This means users will have one portal through which they can access and track all their applications and permits.    

The County is committed to providing updates on how DCD is progressing toward addressing community concerns. DCD leadership will return to Council in three months to provide an update on permit review times, new position hires, and other initiatives.   

Questions? Contact: Mark Tompkins, Interim Director of the Department of Community Development, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.