Saturday, April 14, 2012

Palmetto Bay's Building and Permitting Advisory Committee Final Committee Report has been completed and submitted to the Village Council. Where does it go from here?

Committee Chair Rainer Schael presented the report to the Council at the February 6, 2012, meeting (CLICK HERE to review official minutes, Section 8. BOARD AND COMMITTEE REPORTS, page 3 of 13).  The minutes reflect that the committee had heard concerns regarding fees and offered a revised fee schedule in response.  The committee also recommended shifting Code Compliance work week schedules to provide for 7 day a week enforcement to cut down on illegal construction.  Another suggestion was to ask Miami-Dade County to establish as satellite office for Fire and DERM review top attempt to reduce time in obtaining permits. 

The committee appears to have worked well with Palmetto Bay staff in reaching some recommendations that are very common sense suggestions that are business and resident friendly. It is now time for the council to step forward and make some sound decisions.

Kudos to the Permitting Staff and Committee members who works so well together creating a great document for the council to work with in re-evaluating any updating for the department and the Village. 

This report now appears to begin moving forward.  The item has been placed upon the Agenda for the Committee of the Whole Workshop for Monday, April 16, 2012, by Council Member Joan Lindsay.  It is item 11 on the agenda.

I congratulate to the Building and Permitting Advisory Committee for the well-though out recommendations contained in their report.  The Committee ran a transparent process that worked hard to notify and involve residents and businesses of its work.  I have put together my thoughts below, identifying some of the policy decisions that the village council will have to make.  And yes, recommended changes will affect departmental costs and potentially what residents and businesses will pay in taxes and/or permit fees.

Unfortunately you cannot presently view a copy of this 44 page report on line despite the fact that this report was accepted by the Council at the meeting held February 6, 2012.  Perhaps this situation will be resolved at the same Monday workshop as Council Member Howard Tendrich is bringing discussion forward, agenda item 9, regarding Village website posting of official documents. Go Howard!

If you would like a copy of the report I have, please contact me and I will provide a .PDF copy of this report to you via e-mail.

I recommend that every interested reader take a detailed look at Appendix C, the County Fee Schedule, when this document becomes available to the public (beginning page 32).  This document provides the greatest comparison and accurate information on where Palmetto Bay ranks in Permit fees.  These are the fees Palmetto Bay residents would be paying had we not incorporated. 

The Committee Recommended Palmetto Bay Fee Schedule is presented beginning at page 37.

Reviewing the Committee Recommendations:

The Committee recognized that many of the recommendations from the 2006 Permitting Advisory Committee were implemented and improved the Permitting Department (established in Resolution 06-29, March 6, 2006, Report, Appendix B, Page 17).  The 2006 original village council accepted these recommendations and by resolution 06-119, moved forward to implement those recommendations.

The Committee found that the there is little that they can change as the Florida Building Code governs.  There were two user-friendly recommendations:

A.     Notification via e-mail (where possible) to property owners;
B.     Inclusion of the permit fee on the permit document – to ensure that the property owner is aware of the permitting fees.

Both are outstanding recommendations, all Palmetto Bay departments should be able to keep pace with new technologies when efficient.  Why add to cost and mailing time when you can instantaneously e-mail?  B is very important.  The village council should direct or allow the department to take all steps necessary to ensure that the property owner knows what the village has actually charged, not what the contractor has passed on as well as requiring clarity that additional fees such as for ‘permit expeditors’ or additional ‘overhead and profit’ fees added by the contractor, not optional/additional services or fees required (or encouraged) by the city.

Other recommendations:

The establishment of an advisory committee to meet quarterly to review and ensure that the department keeps working as it is and to provide an avenue for future oversight

Provision of instructional videos and webinars for the use of residents.
Where possible, to allow for online permitting.
Using computers to upload inspections results in real time saving from delays until entry the following day.
Scheduled reviews every three years to review fees to adjust upwards or downwards to compensate for expenditures and revenues
Suggests having the Manager consider consolidating Zoning/Planning into Building/Permitting department to mirror the streamlining of the process as Miami-Dade County has done the same

Reviews by prior groups:

I believe that you can’t allow government, as you should let any business, fall into a rut.  You want to stay flexible, but not to the point where you are leaking money to change for the sake of change. 

The 2012 Committee recognized the great strides made by the Village since the 2006 committee (see page 6).  The 20012 committee has offered the following recommendations for continued improvement:

1.      Adopt the proposed fee schedule
2.      Notification (via e-mail where possible) to property owner & inclusion of the permit fee on the permit document – to ensure the property owner is aware of permitting fees.
3.      Combine the inspections into one entity.
4.      Sign display and Code Officers staged work days
5.      Implement more informational products
6.      Implementation of all recommendations in Item 6.

Recommendations contained in item number 6:
1.      Develop an updated customer survey form to gauge satisfaction with the process.
2.      Institute a call ahead procedure so the inspector lets the applicant know he/she is on the way to do the inspection.
3.      Finish the installation of the “Eden” software program to allow greater internet access.
4.      Provide laptop computers or tablets to inspectors allowing them to upload inspection results quicker.
5.      Approach County to open a South Dade satellite office for the outside agencies which deal with permitting for PERA (fka DERM) and Fire.
6.      Provide a vehicle to keep a five member building Committee charged with meeting semi-annually to access changes and make periodic suggestions to the council.

My personal analysis:

The Manger and Council will have to determine which recommendation to accept and implement.  The first and real question is a two part question:

A.     What level of service are you willing to pay to subsidize to move permits as quickly and as efficiently as possible?, and/or;
B.     How much are you willing to charge a permit applicant to cover the cost of the department?

There is also a huge policy decision to be made on whether to combine department.  Would a consolidation be a cost saving move that results in greater efficiency or is there a benefit to having separate departments to provide greater specialty or provide some balance between each other?

Chasing the latest technologies cost money.  The permitting departments are not to make money, yet they should not be a burden on the general taxpayer.  The department should be (and is, to the positive side) self-sustaining.

Costing out the permitting upgrades is the tough part.  How much cost will the Palmetto Bay taxpayers support?  In reality, Palmetto Bay could hire up and staff a 24/7/365 permit system with the latest and greatest technologies to the point where permits could be obtained on a 24 hour walk in basis, the only delay being County required inspections by DERM and fire (which the Committee addressed).    Is this truly required or was that just useless candidate hyperbole?  The committee was quite reasonable and very focused in their consideration. 

We heard a candidate during the last election exclaim that it takes too long to obtain a permit, yet we did not hear anyone with personal experience in delays step forward. Some cities like Doral have the infrastructure to have multidisciplinary simultaneous inspections on large screen monitors. If I recall correctly, Doral permitting revenues have exceeded $6 million in past years while Palmetto Bay’s have never exceeded $800,000.  There is no ability to pay for the same level of system that Doral has unless the taxpayers are willing to step forward to fund any costs in excess of revenues.  I do not believe that there would be support for this in Palmetto Bay. 

Again, the committee appears to have recommended some very common sense suggestions that are business and resident friendly. It is now time for the council to step forward and make some decisions.  Especially on simplifying the fee schedule and working well with staff.  This was achieved by working together as a model for all committees. 

Congratulations to the 2012 Building and Permitting Advisory Committee and Village Staff:

I offer well-deserved complements to the Director and staff of the Building and Permitting department and the Building and Permitting Advisory Committee members who works so well together creating a great document for the council to work with in re-evaluating any updating for the department and the Village. 

Building and Permitting Permitting Advisory Committee members:
Rainer Schael, Chairperson
Gary Amore
Linda Bell, PE
Chet England
Maria Carolina Flor, GC
Richardo Herrera, PE
Louis Kallinosis, AIA
Ed Ludovici, Esq.
Alvin Siegal, PhD
Guillermo Valdes-Fali, GSC

Department of Building & Capital Projects - Edward Silva, Director:
Edward Silva, Director (and Building Official)
Aurelio Ramos, Chief Building Inspector
Gladys Bilbraut, Office Manager
Darryl Jeune, Receptionist
Evelyn Fraley, Building Permit Clerk
Jackie Villegas, Building Permit Clerk

For additional information:
CLICKHERE to view the official Palmetto Bay Department of Building & Capital Projects web page that provides detailed information on services, resources, contact information as well as the following:

Quick Links

Hours of Operation & Address
News & Information
Staff & Contact Information
Important Links
Forms, Fees, and Documents

Online Resources

Online Resources for Homeowners
Online Resources for Contractors
Permit Status Search (presently unavailable)
Methods of Payment
Flood Zone Map
Zoning Map


  1. I have a crazy idea. Why doesn't this commission cut out all the silly regulations they keep piling on the business community. How does it make you feel Mr. Mayor that you and so many others created a business plan for the commercial island only to watch this next group run it into the ground. All the excitement created only to be crushed by this current anti-business council. Just you wait, and you heard it here first, until Pinecrest and Cutler Bay have a great little business centers going and Palmetto Bay only has the squalor you and others worked to be redeveloped. Your current mayor is probably afraid the rents would go up and drive her crappy little second hand store out of business, but I guess she never discloses that little conflict, does she? Wait until the residential taxpayers in Pinecrest and Cutler Bay see the tax and quality of life benefits of having a healthy business community become realized. I only hope that the two neighboring cities of Pinecrest and Cutler Bay ticket the heck out of all the NIMBYs from Palmetto Bay who have the gall to create traffic in Pinecrest and Cutler Bay to go to the stores and restaurants they should have brought to their own area. I hope that your current mayor, vice mayor and councilwoman build that wall they so desperately want to keep everyone out. Others on the outside hope it works the other way as well, that the wall keeps these NIMBYs in Palmetto Bay and away from other cities. Where in Palmetto Bay do all the Palmetto Bay kids go? Oh, that is right, to high schools located in Pinecrest and unincorporated Dade.

  2. Good question. Where does this council go from here? Anyone, anyone?