Salisbury gets water-sewer extension permitting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 18, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY ó Developers can complete projects up to three months faster in Salisbury, thanks to the cityís new authority to issue water and sewer extension permits locally instead of through the state.
The City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance approving local permitting authority, one of a handful of North Carolina cities that has completed the arduous process. It took five years.
ěThis is monumental,î Councilman Brian Miller said. ěThis is huge.î
Anytime the city can shorten the development process without undermining integrity and quality, ěitís a move in the right direction,î he said.
Two divisions of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and the N.C. Attorney Generalís Office approved the draft ordinance. The state still must grant final approval of certain water and sewer extension plans.
Until now, private developers had to submit utility plans to the city for review and approval. Developers then submitted plans to the state, which typically required two to three more months for approval.
For some small projects, permitting took longer than actual construction.
But with the new local permitting authority, the city can save developers several months in turnaround time, providing savings in material and staffing costs on every water extension project.
ěFor anyone who has to extend water and sewer lines, this is a major benefit,î said banker Mark Lewis, a former City Council member who helped start the process several years ago and spoke Tuesday in favor of the ordinance. ěTime is money.î
Local permitting authority makes Salisbury more desirable for private developers, said City Engineer Dan Mikkelson, who shepherded the draft ordinance through the stateís red tape. The process was difficult because the N.C. Department of Natural Resources is hesitant to give up permitting authority and delegate it to local governments, Mikkelson said.
ěThe development community will be served faster with more understanding of their problems,î said architect Bill Burgin, another former City Council member who helped forge the process.
The speed, flexibility and problem solving now offered in Salisbury will attract developers when the economy improves, Burgin said.
ěThis will definitely create jobs,î Councilman William ěPeteî Kennedy said.
Developers Rodney Queen and Victor Wallace also praised the change but said the city has other bottlenecks in the development process to solve. Wallace said the city needs to review of the Land Development Ordinance to make it more business-friendly.
ěI think weíve made some progress over the last several years moving business development forward,î Councilman Paul Woodson said.
Permitting water-sewer extensions locally should end the frustration of the lengthy approval process, Mayor Susan Kluttz said.
ěWe were often accused of not being business-friendly because of the time the state would take and the delay in permitting,î she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said she appreciated staffís diligence on the project, which achieves a City Council goal to streamline the development process.
ěSaving a developer 10 to 12 weeks would certainly rank right up there,î Blackwell said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.