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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill improves development services

In the past, the process for obtaining permits and inspections for residents and business owners has been a long one.

“Before, it used to be that the departments were split up in different places, and there was a challenge for people who were trying to get their business open or to get a new building finished,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said. “They had a lot of running around to do.”

When the first floor of the Town Hall was damaged by floodwater in the summer of 2013, the town had the opportunity to redesign, so they combined the permit and inspections divisions.

“It’s a one-stop destination that brings people from different parts of our town organization together so they can be more efficient,” Kleinschmidt said.

Aaron Nelson, CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said many businesses working with the chamber had trouble with the old system, and the chamber was happy to hear about the newly consolidated desk.

“This community is very excited at the possibility of a one-stop shop,” he said. “We think it will be well received, and we look forward to hearing feedback.”

The Development Services Desk will provide a central portal for all development application submissions. It will take care of permits, inspections, plan review and code enforcement.

There will also be a revenue office so that people can pay for permits and taxes.

Phil Mason, co-manager of Development Services, said combining the permit and inspections divisions should make the process easier for everyone.

“We’re always interested in doing things more efficiently,” he said. “We’re always looking to do improvements to our development review process, and it’s something that we assess on a continual basis.”

The components of the Development Services Desk are grouped within the Planning and Sustainability Department, which also includes long-range planning and transportation divisions.

In its first week of operation, Mason said the new system has been successful.

“It’s a little early to tell, but I think we’re all noticing that it’s nice for people from different divisions that didn’t work side by side before to be working in closer proximity and being able to ask each other questions and then look at applications together,” he said.

Nelson said he also has high hopes for the division.

“We think that the town of Chapel Hill is becoming more and more responsive to the needs of the business community,” he said. “We appreciate this customer-centered approach.”

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