By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun
7:32 PM EST, January 17, 2013
Building just about anything in Annapolis, from a garden shed to a slots casino, is a bit easier these days, as applicants can now handle all of the paperwork in a single place — a new, one-stop permit counter at 145 Gorman St.
County officials say the facility spares contractors, business people and homeowners the trouble of shuttling from there to City Hall to the fire marshal's office a few miles away, and perhaps back again, to complete project applications.
"This was a goal of mine for a couple of years," said Annapolis Mayor Joshua Cohen.
"Annapolis has had a reputation, some of it deserved, of being a tough place to do business," he said, adding that the one-stop counter service is part of a larger effort that includes cutting the number of hearings required for certain development projects.
Cohen said the one-stop counter and revised hearing requirements should help make "City Hall more customer-friendly, making the approval process more predictable, and reducing the time and money it takes for the applicant."
The official opening at Gorman Street was held Thursday, but the counter has been opening in stages, as departments move into the new spot.
"Logistically, it was challenging," Cohen said. "We had this domino effect of all these different moves," as some departments had to move to make room for others.
The first phase began nearly a year ago and is still going on as the office of the mayor and city manager move into newly vacated space on the second floor of City Hall, at 160 Duke of Gloucester St.
At Gorman Street, the second and third floors are now home to all the departments that have to approve permits needed to build and occupy anything, from a backyard deck to a shopping mall, said Maria Broadbent, director of the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs. That includes permits for electrical work, plumbing, grading, wastewater treatment, fire protection, removing trees, posting signs and putting up temporary buildings, including tents bigger than a certain size.
Broadbent's agency moved from City Hall to Gorman Street. The fire marshal's office, which must approve fire-protection measures in new buildings, moved from fire headquarters about three miles away on Forest Drive. The Office of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Public Works were already at Gorman Street and will stay put.
"All the permits pass over the same counter," Broadbent said. "A fence, a commercial kitchen, a new restaurant, a house."
Along with the central location, there's also one central permitting phone number: 410 260-2200.
Along with saving applicants a lot of running from building to building, Cohen hopes that having all those involved in issuing permits working together will speed the process.
"By having all these different services co-located," he said, "it fosters a sense of teamwork to get these permits done."
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