Beaufort County creating 'one-stop shop' for permits for new homes, businesses

achristnovich@islandpacket.comApril 4, 2012 

Beaufort County's zoning, permitting and business-licensing offices will be combined to create a "one-stop shop" that should make getting permission to build a home or business easier and faster.

Currently, applicants bounce between three offices on two floors, where they often fill out the same form multiple times, code enforcement supervisor Audra Antonacci said.

To make the process more convenient, two building-codes officials, one zoning employee and one licensing-department employee will move to a second-floor office in the county's administration building on 100 Ribaut Road in Beaufort by July 1.

Workers will be cross trained to prevent redundancy and fix problems before they begin, Antonacci said at a Governmental Committee meeting Monday.

That was good news to Lisa Presnell, who is building a home on Lady's Island with her husband. She said completing paperwork was a "miserable" experience that required at least nine trips to get the permits they needed.

"The entire process of building is more complicated than it needs to be," she said.

Presnell said she was particularly frustrated when the county told her that the licenses for the surveyor she hired were out of date and made it her responsibility to relay the message to the surveyor.

"As a private citizen, should I be verifying a license?" she said. "The county is using a private citizen to police what we pay county employees to do."

County Councilman Brian Flewelling said that unfairly demands that residents understand a complicated process for which county employees are already trained.

"The overall problem is that a lot of people don't understand -- and shouldn't have to understand -- how the government fills their needs," Flewelling said. "They should just have a problem and get it fixed."

Flewelling said consolidating the offices is one small step toward creating a user-friendly building process.

"This is not a be-all, end-all solution to all of the problems in reviewing, zoning and permitting," he said.

Flewelling hopes the move will be made before next year's budget takes effect. He said he doesn't believe the consolidation will result in job loss, but that money could be saved by increasing efficiency.

If the new system works well, offices in Hilton Head and Bluffton will follow suit, according to deputy county administrator Bryan Hill.

"This is step one of probably about 10 steps to be more efficient and to streamline our operations," he said. "The one-stop shop is what we need to be doing."

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