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Council adopts legislation streamlining, renaming county’s permitting environmental review agency

Summary

New name for Department of Development and Environmental Services reflects shifting responsibilities of the department

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to an ordinance reorganizing King County’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES). Along with a new structure will come a new name: The Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER).

“This reorganization is good news for our property owners in the rural areas, who will find a better coordinated permitting process in consolidated offices that soon will be relocated to Snoqualmie,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who represents unincorporated areas in northeast King County. “This is a downsizing related to the economy as well as streamlining that is responsive to changing needs. As part of King County’s efforts to increase efficiency in operations, these revised permitting procedures will reduce costs and, at the same time, improve the experience for customers while locating the agency closer to the people they serve.”

“This legislation is responsive to the changing population and customer base of unincorporated King County,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “Unincorporated and an increasingly more rural King County are now the primary customers for DPER, so we are creating an agency that supports the services they require, expect and deserve.”

Currently, DDES is responsible for issuing building and land use permits for properties located in unincorporated King County. The agency also enforces county land use and building codes, staffs the King County Fire Marshal Division, and issues business licenses.

When the current organizational structure and responsibilities of DDES were established in 1995, the agency had a significantly greater number of staff, higher permit volumes, and more diverse permit types. Over the last 17 years, annexations and incorporations have significantly reduced DDES’ customer base and permit volumes. The nature of permitting activity at DDES also has changed, shifting towards single-family uses within the County's shrinking unincorporated urban area and resource-related uses in the rural areas.

Along with a new name, DPER will have a new location. The agency will move closer to its customer base, shifting operations from Renton to the city of Snoqualmie starting in late October.

The responsibilities of the agency will NOT change with the reorganization and the new name. The adopted ordinance will streamline DPER operations from its current four divisions into a single division. The goal of the reorganization is to shift DPER’s long-standing assembly-line approach of reviewing permits to a more coordinated style that reduces layers of supervision and makes for a more customer–friendly process.

The reorganization also emphasizes the agency’s focus on rural permit types and its effort to increase transparency and efficiency while reducing costs.



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