DENVER – Long wait times and disorganized filing systems are delaying the issuance of building permits as intensive development continues in Denver. A booming population means booming construction, and with that, a high demand for construction permits.
Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, initiated an audit of the City and County of Denver’s Department of Community Planning and Development (CPD) Development Services division. The audit found lines to file construction permits with the department begin hours before the office opens, and people have had to spend hours waiting to get help. CPD could improve its intake practices to dramatically improve customer wait times, staff efficiency and training.
An audit of CPD’s Development Services division revealed inefficiencies in the permit intake process resulted in an average wait time of more than 1.5 hours for submission of a residential or commercial building permit. When compared to reported wait times in Colorado Springs, San Diego and Aurora, the division exceeds the average of 30 to 45 minutes.
“Imbalances in staff training and long wait times are holding up the business of growing and developing the City of Denver,” Auditor O’Brien said.
Additionally, the office lacks sufficient storage capacities for the significant amount of construction plans submitted as part of the permit process. This issue results in no defined organizational system and increased time wasted by staff searching for needed documents. Approved plans for archiving are backlogged by at least six months.
Auditors also found that although customer feedback is provided and tracked, there is little or no management process for addressing the issues from customers. Best practices, standardized by federal executive orders, have not been implemented.
The development services division lacks a defined periodic review process of building permit fees, which are intended to partially or fully cover operational costs. Additionally, the division staff reported the City typically charges less for permits than surrounding municipalities. This may shift some cost to the taxpayers.
CPD agreed to address the long lines by training staff by the end of 2018. The department also agreed to update its paper filing system through organization and the use of digital storage. CPD also agreed to track customer feedback and review the fee process.
CPD did not agree with the final recommendation that it should work collaboratively with Technology Services (TS) to ensure that former division employee access to the internal system Accela has been revoked. Although there was a secondary internal failsafe to prevent former employees from logging into the system, it is still the agency’s responsibility to notify TS of terminated employees to revoke permissions.