Hernando County is growing, and while growth can be a boost to local economy, it also means many permitting requests are bogging down the building and zoning division.
County administration is working to speed things up for those waiting for permit approvals by adding more positions. At one point, administration had 400 voicemails waiting to be addressed. Now with two permit technicians available to answer phones and emails, more residents are getting answers instead of waiting.
Another adjustment recently made to the electronic portal for requests has been well received by contractors, said Tobey Phillips, deputy county administrator. By pushing out six permits that are self-issued, contractors can upload their required information, fill it out, pay for it, and get it electronically approved.
“Building and zoning stayed pretty busy through COVID, we really were kind of anticipating it to slow down,” Phillips said. “Single-family permits for homes, re-roofs, I think everybody was home to start looking around their house so we never really slowed down. Coming into the new fiscal year (Oct. 1) we were very cautious about how to anticipate what the workload would be coming into the new year. With COVID we just weren’t sure.”
In November, the administration began to see an increase in permit requests and the following month were completely consumed with even more requests. Residents were stuck waiting at least 90 days before their permit could be reviewed, which is usually a 10- to 15-day process for a single-family home as long as no revisions were needed, according to Phillips.
“We could understand why the contractors were frustrated,” Phillips said. “They were busy, they wanted to stay busy, and we wanted to keep them busy. We just were doing everything physically possible to get those requests out the door.”
To expedite this process, the county hired additional staff in December and in the past few months, has adjusted the process to make it smoother internally. Now, the wait for a permit review is 30 days. A majority of the permits is from contractors and companies, and a lot of new development is coming to Hernando. Even in April, the permit requests are still coming in at a steady rate.
Staff are being paid overtime in addition to working from home, weekends, and late hours to accommodate the requests.
For more information, visit https://hernandobuildingdivision.com/BldgDept and www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-n-z/zoning.