IBJNews

State pushing to keep building-review wait times down

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The state is working to address growing delays in the building-project plan-review process that can slow down developments and increase their costs.

But it’s unclear whether Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security, whose staff reviews non-residential projects for compliance with state codes, will be able to keep up with demand, should it grow again next year.
 
Wait times for the plan-review process increased from an average of 10 to 12 days to 18 to 20 days during the summer and into the fall. In early September, the average wait was 21 days.

A thinner staff and unexpected influx of applications caused the uptick, said Bonnie Robison, the department’s director of plan review.

The review staff decreased from nine employees in 2007 to six. The department avoided filling vacant positions while a recession-driven slowdown in construction caused a contraction in applications coming in the door.

But, since the second quarter this year, Robison said, “we have showed a steady increase in applications.” At the same time, a more thorough review was mandated, making the process more time-intensive.

The increased workload led to a backlog of cases. And the only way to speed up the process was for developers to pay a flat fee of $5,000 on top of regular review costs, which range from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the project.

Adding extra time to the review can drag out the overall approval process for projects, adding to costs and, in some cases, threatening their viability.

“Every day you add to the entitlement process, you’re increasing the cost of the development,” said Brad Beaubien, director of Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning Indianapolis Center. “For major developments, that may not be an issue, but for the neighborhood-scale projects, that really adds up. That can be a deal-breaker in some cases.”

Mark Demerly, an Indianapolis architect, said he faced a four-week wait for the review this summer. But rather than paying the fee, he informed his clients that it was going to take longer. While it slowed down the project, they preferred the wait over the extra expense.

“It’s very cost-prohibitive, so it’s not even a consideration,” Demerly said. “It was as if that was the only option you had—normally it’s a two-week or 10-day scenario.”

In the last few months, the department has attacked its wait times by bringing in code-enforcement field inspectors to work on reviews and hiring two additional employees. As of the first week of December, the average wait was down to 12 days. That’s still up slightly from three years ago, when it was less than 10 days, Robison said.

It’s difficult to predict, though, whether the challenges will resurface next year if the economy grows as expected and construction projects see an uptick again.

Jason Shelley, executive director of the American Institute of Architects Indiana, said his members are more optimistic than they were a year ago, but no one is expecting a flood of work next year.

“The two key words: cautiously optimistic,” Shelley said. “Nobody is expecting great things, but nobody is expecting it to go down.”

While they have increased staff, the plan review staff is still down a person from three years ago, and Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Erickson said there are no current plans to hire another employee.

But, he said, if there is another surge, the department will do what it takes to keep the wait times down. That could include reallocating staff to help review applications.

“Certainly we’re going to take a look at what the needs are,” Erickson said, “as we hope the need for plan review increases.”

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Plan reveiw
    The plan reveiw department should be abolished. Leave that to the local building and fire people.
  • Frustrated
    It is very hard to understand how this group has gotten progressively worse when fewer projects are being submitted for review. Even the payment of the expediting fee is not speeding up their review times within 48 hours.
  • Review time
    To state that the only way to speed up the process is to pay an additional $5,000 on top of the regular review fee is a ridiculous statement. That merely means that you get more money and those who elect not to pay the $5,000 wait longer. How about normal productivity and working a full 8 hours?

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Here are a few candidates for this new group, "ripped from the headlines." First up, that bizzaro State Senator Brent Waltz; secondly, the unethical Todd Huston, and his contractual arrangements scheme; Finally, but not least of all, the dishonorable Eric Turner. What sayeth you Greg Zoeller?

  2. Good day. I can't hide this great testimony that take place in my life I will love everyone to know it and be partaker that is why I always place it on answer, I am Mrs,Natalie Cuttaia by name, I live in Texas, United State Of America, I want to thank (Mr.Bruce Brandon) for his kindness upon my family life. I never knew that there is still nice lender like this on internet and earth here. Just some Months Back, I was in search for a loan of $100,000,00 as I was running out of money for feeding and rent. I was scammed $6,800 Dollars and I decided not to involve my self in such business again but a Friend of my introduced me to a loan firm due to my appearance and doings. And I told him that I am not interested of any loan deal anymore but he told me that there is still a nice lender who he will recommend me to, and I made a trial and I am most grateful lucky am I today, I was given a loan amount of $100,000.00usd, by this great Company (Bruce Brandon Loan Company) managed by (Mr.Bruce Brandon) If you are in need of a genuine or legit loan or financial assistance and you can be reliable and trusted of capable of paying back at the due time of the funds I will advice you to, contact him via: ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com ) And you will be free from scams in the internet. All thanks to Mr.Bruce Brandon You are the one who remove me and my family out of poverty. The reason why i am doing this is that, i promise Mr.Bruce Brandon that if i truly got my loan, i will advertize his company and bring customers to his company. Contact him via ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com )for the Loan you have been looking for..

  3. Hello, We are firm Organization formed to help people in needs of helps,such as financial help. So if you are going through financial difficulty or you are in any financial mess,and you need funds to start up your own business,or you need loan to settle your debt or pay off your bills,start a nice business, or you are finding it hard to obtain capital loan from local banks,contact us today via email mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com So do not let these opportunity pass you by because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever more. Please these is for serious minded and God fearing People. Your Name: Loan Amount: Loan Duration: Valid Cell Phone Number: Thanks for your understanding to your contact as we Await Regards Management Email:mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com

  4. The question is, where could they build a new stadium? It seems in the past year, all the prime spots have been spoken for with potential projects. Maybe in the industrial wasteland area a block past Lucas Oil? I think it needs to be close to the core, if a new stadium is built.

  5. Aldi is generally a great shopping experience. Still, I'm sure YOU wouldn't want to shop there, which I consider a positive.

ADVERTISEMENT