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Permitting systems need to be streamlined

The frustration in the room was palpable at last Wednesday’s public hearing on the city of Biscay’s application for a conditional use permit for its new wastewater collection and treatment system.
Unfortunately, the application was made “after the fact,” as construction on the system has already begun.
The city’s engineer rattled off a long list of permits it had attained in the five-year process to correct the city’s wastewater issues. The need for a conditional use permit from the county was overlooked. According to the county’s zoning ordinance, “essential service structures” require a conditional use permit.
Ironically, the city had applied for — and received — another county permit, from the environmental services department.
It may be recalled that a similar situation occurred a couple of years ago when the city of Brownton was installing a municipal natural gas system. It, too, had acquired a long laundry list of permits, with the exception of one — a county conditional use permit for the installation of a substation near Highway 15, west of town. Again, the permit was approved “after the fact.”
In both instances, the permit was overlooked; neither was a case of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
As one listens to engineers list the large number of permits needed to do a project, it’s not surprising that one or two gets overlooked.
It all points to the need to streamline government, to make the process simpler. At the very least, in this day and age of electronic communication, there should be a universal checklist of permits that need to be pulled for any given project.
Rural residents and township officials pointed out, rightfully so, that the hearing Wednesday was their only chance to provide input on a municipal project that impacted their respective areas.
It’s sad and a disservice that an oversight inhibited their ability to do so. It was simply too late. The work was nearly done, although the system is not operational, yet.
The conditonal use permit process allows for due process, said Marc Telecky of the county’s zoning department.
Had the permit process been initiated on time, “in hindsight, some of these issues could have been mitigated,” Telecky added.
And that’s exactly what the permit process is for — to mitigate issues before construction ever starts.
So let’s start working toward a system that ensures that everyone is aware of what permits are needed for a project, and make sure there is follow through.
It’s in everyone’s best interest.