During the past 2-3 years, Lee County has been engaging in a systematic and comprehensive streamlining of its zoning, permitting and development review processes. In a report released recently by the County’s Department of Community Development (DCD), the results of this streamlining effort are identified in detail.
Working independently and in conjunction with the Business Issues Task Force of the County’s Horizon Council, DCD has developed and implemented improvements in customer service and technology, amendments to the County’s Land Development Code, and is in the process of proposing changes to its comprehensive plan that facilitate the processing of permitting applications. Some of the highlights include:
Customer Service and Technology: A number of improvements have been implemented, including on-line submission of applications; permitting by telephone, fax and email; paperless processing of certain applications; increased availability of on-line reports and pending applications; and access to updated GIS features through the County’s “Lee SpInS” system.
Code Amendments: The report identifies 22 specific amendments or changes to the Land Development Code that have been adopted to increase efficiency and reduce time “in process.” Some of the more significant changes include:
- Expanded administrative approval for certain variances and deviations that formerly required approval through the public hearing process.
- Elimination of unnecessary submittal requirements for rezonings and development orders.
- Mandatory meetings between staff and applicants to address application “sufficiency” issues after the initial staff review.
- Streamlining the zoning sufficiency review process, and allowing applicants to terminate the sufficiency review process after two rounds and proceed to hearing.
- Elimination of the 5-year duration of zoning master concept plans, allowing plans to remain valid indefinitely unless vacated under Florida law.
- Extending the duration of development orders to 9 years (an addition of 3 years).
Lee Plan Update: The County is in the process of completing the periodic update of its comprehensive plan (the Lee Plan) required by law. As part of that process, adopted and proposed streamlining changes include: allowing plan amendments to be submitted and processed at any time during the calendar year; eliminating mandatory concurrency requirements for roads, schools and parks; establishing incentives for mixed use developments and higher density projects at certain locations; and providing more flexible level-of-service standards for future development.
DCD plans to continue its streamlining efforts as it moves into 2014, with future areas of focus to include coordination with the Hearing Examiner’s office to improve zoning and code enforcement efficiency; continued evaluation of the Land Development Code and Lee Plan; and continued implementation of technological improvements to the County’s Tidemark permitting system and possible mobile apps for submittals.
To review the entire DCD report, click here, Lee County DCD Report.