City to consider offering building plan reviews, inspections for first time

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 25, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — City Manager Doug Paris plans to study whether the city should offer its own plan review and building inspection services to encourage new businesses.
Those services are currently available only through Rowan County.
Paris told City Council on Friday he will form a task force of city staffers and industry professionals to study the city’s ability to provide express plan review and inspections to customers willing to pay more for expedited services. He said express review could cut weeks or even months from the development process.
As part of his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Paris also recommended:
• First year business license fees will be rebated for all new businesses during the coming fiscal year.
• The city will rebate development services fees for the first 25 new construction or redevelopment projects within the city limits in the coming fiscal year.
• The city’s one-stop shop will open this fall, placing in one location everything that business owners and developers need. The city will include space in the facility for county and state officials at no cost.
If the city offers plan review and inspection services, the entire development process would be under the city’s control, he said.
“This express service would be offered as an optional higher level of service to our customers, not a replacement to Rowan County’s plan review and inspection service,” he said. “Customers would be able to select which review track they prefer — the express review option offered by the city or basic review provided by the county.”
The city would contract with a private firm to provide the services. Fees paid by customers would cover the cost of the contract, Paris said.
Paris’ recommendations came in response to City Council’s goals to create a more business-friendly city. He based the proposals on services offered by Raleigh and Rock Hill.
The city must do all it can to streamline the development process and give businesses incentives to expand in Salisbury, Paris said. As a result, the city’s tax base will grow, he said.
The task force will determine whether the idea is viable and how much the city should charge for the services.
Developers will pay more for “deadlines and certainties,” Councilman Brian Miller said. “Time is money.”
The longer developers wait for plan approvals and building inspections, the more they pay in interest on loans, he said.
While Rowan County offers one level of service throughout the county, the city has customers who expect a higher level of service, Miller said.
“We need the additional tax base,” he said. “We need to cater to those clients.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.