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Morgan’s 2013 building permit, planning revenue sets record

Article Date: 
31 January, 2014 (All day)

Charlie Ewert is going out with a bang.
The Morgan County planning and development department director’s last day on the job was Jan. 30, and he is leaving behind him Morgan’s best year in history for building permit and planning revenue.
The 2013 year’s numbers exceed those of 2007’s, previously the highest year on record for the county.
In 2013, Morgan County issued 86 single-family building permits after 106 applications were submitted.  The 20 that applied but were not granted will likely “overflow” into 2014, Ewert said.
When considering building permits for single family homes, accessory buildings, additions and all other, Morgan issued a total of 178 permits. Those building permits brought in a total revenue of $331,970 for the county in 2013.
While the number of planning permits is down 10 compared to 2012, the revenue from those permits is up (from $29,000 in 2012 to $30,944) because the applications are “more cumbersome, therefore more expensive,” Ewert said.
 Snowbasin’s rezone application made up half of 2012’s $29,000 planning permit revenue.  2013 saw fewer right of way permits compared to 2012 as well.
“2013 is the best year ever in the history of Morgan County,” Ewert said.  “Zoning reviews, business licenses, building reviews—everything is up.”
Complaints that Morgan’s planning staff is taking too long to process the increasing applications are also up, Ewert said.
“Application review timeframes are increasing, leading to unsatisfied customers and expensive administration time trying to satisfy their frequent calls,” Ewert told the Morgan County Council last week.
After conducting a review of how long planning staffs are taking to conduct similar reviews in neighboring counties, Ewert discovered Morgan’s current staff is on par or above their peers.
Ewert provided data detailing Morgan performs more inspections per calendar day with its current staff than Weber, Summit or Wasatch counties.  Morgan is middle of the pack for the average number of permits reviewed per calendar day for every full-time employee.
On average, Morgan conducts 150 percent more inspections and reviews 83 percent more permits per calendar day for every full-time employee than Weber County does.  Morgan County also took in 32 percent more revenue from plan permits than Weber County did in 2013, probably because Weber charges a flat fee rather than a 35 percent of property value like Morgan does.  Weber County has since changed how it calculates application fees.
Morgan conducts 20 percent more inspections yet reviews 18 percent less permits per calendar day for every full-time employee than Summit County did in 2013.  Morgan collected 35 percent less in plan review revenues than Summit County.
Morgan reviews 20 percent more permits per calendar day for every full-time employee than Wasatch County.  Since Wasatch contracts out all permit reviews, figures were not available to compare with Morgan County.  Morgan County collected 41 percent less in plan review revenues than Wasatch County.
The question, then, isn’t how hard the staff is working, but how many staff members are in the department, he said.  Increased revenues plus increased building permit applications justify hiring a full-time building inspector, as well as a fee study to perhaps raise building permit fees, he said.
“Permit review measures reflect adequate levels of service per equivalent employee.  Increased wait times are due to insufficient staffing,” Ewert said.  “The picture as I see it tells a clear story.  We don’t have the staffing resources necessary to respond to our customers the way we need to.”
In fact, current staff have been successful in cutting review time frames for planning applications in 2013, Ewert said.  Morgan currently employs one building official who has to split his time among building inspections, plan reviews, and other administrative duties.  In contrast, Weber County has two full-time building inspectors, two full time plan examiners, and one building official.  Summit County has one plan reviewer and a part-time building official.
Hiring a full-time building inspector would result in less reliance on contractors, Ewert said.
“If we can eliminate some of our contracted services, and focus on in-house full-time employees, we can provide a far better service and cut down on review time significantly,” he said. 
Ewert predicts a busy 2014 with Whisper Ridge phase 2; Rollins Ranch phases 4a, 4b, 5 and 6; and Cottonwoods phases 4 through 9 on the horizon.