Comment 105235

By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted October 07, 2014 at 17:53:46

The problem is rooted in the planning, licensing and building departments which do not communicate with each other. Not answering phone calls or returning voice mail is universal. Sometimes you will pay the same fee to more than one department.

Example: You pay a $200 zoning check fee to the license department and find out you need to get a building permit before going any further. The building department then charges you a $200 zoning fee on top of the permit to make sure your work complies with zoning. You've just paid for the same thing twice. It is policy for licensing to waive the zoning fee if a building permit has been obtained, however most people don't know this and only find out after they've already paid.

I was actually told by a department head that most people pay the fee twice because they don't know any better. He then told me, with a straight face, that I was 'lucky' that someone 'tipped me off' to the fact, and thus I only paid once, but they prefer that people do not know.

So there you have it - customer service at City Hall is considered a tip off to the extortion that is considered standard procedure.

The best idea I've heard is a lot like this one. Mayoral candidate Mike Pattison suggests that business applicants be assigned a case worker to walk them through the procedures. This person would be your only contact and would deal with all the departments on your behalf. Their job would be to make sure your applications get approved quickly and efficiently. They would know the idiosynchracies of each department and get answers as needed instead of the stonewalling members of the public are used to.

However, I think the only solution is a complete gutting and replacement of all these departments and the bylaws that govern them.

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