HBA Reaches Out to Olathe Mayor Regarding Lengthy Plan Review Delays

In response to builders in Olathe, Kan., reporting significant delays during the plan review process, the HBA has contacted and met with city officials many times during the last few months to discuss solutions to this issue. Most recently, the HBA sent the Mayor of Olathe, Michael Copeland, an email requesting assistance with this challenge.

In the email, the HBA cited the amount of time the plan review process takes in Olathe compared to other cities. For example, the plan review process in Overland Park only takes a matter of days, yet the city pulls a similar number of permits as Olathe every year. Olathe, however, takes six weeks to turn a permit.

The HBA has been in contact with Mark Wassom, chief building official, on several occasions and offered solutions to help with the problem, however, it is not seeing permitting times improve. Therefore, the HBA is requesting the mayor’s help directly.

Permitting is a major component to the new construction process, and if delays are lengthy, buyers begin to look elsewhere, the email said. The letter also noted residential builders contributed nearly $2.5 million dollars in property tax revenue to Olathe. This number does not include the ripple effect of payroll taxes, expenditures made by employees purchasing goods in the local economy, or the annually recurring jobs that new construction produces.

According to builders, they first started experiencing the delays near the start of the year, but they have grown substantially worse in the past several months. The HBA held a municipal meeting with city staff (Mark Wassom and Eric Meats, senior building inspector) on July 25 and the plan review delays were discussed at length. At that meeting, staff agreed they would look into the following solutions to improve plan review and permitting times in Olathe:

  • Staffing levels and temporarily contracting out.
  • The city accepting master plans.
  • Expediting plans stamped by an engineer.
  • I’ve also attached a PDF of other things the city can do to address plan review and permitting times in Olathe. This is a national study done that focused specifically on how to make the plan submittal, review and approval process more efficient.

However, the HBA continues to receive feedback from its builder and banker members who are extremely frustrated with the situation because they are not seeing results, though the HBA has continually reached out to the city for solutions. The city’s response has typically been as follows:

  • “Our permit time remains longer than we would like it to be.”
  • “Staffing level changes were rejected so there won’t be any change on that.”
  • “I won’t likely be able to get any help until 2020.”
  • “I couldn’t get the fee put back in for Master Plans, but we are trying to do this indirectly.”
  • “Once we get through the backlog, and into the winter slow down, I plan to do a wholesale review of our process and procedure.”
  • “We need to find ways to do reviews more efficiently.”
  • “I’ve attached relevant city correspondence in this email.”
  • “Due to the back log of applications, we (front desk team) are advised not to stop/slow the review process to get delivery dates from the review team.”
  • “I’m not able to provide an exact time of when the review will be completed.”

All of these postpone acting on workable solutions to the problem, the HBA’s letter to the mayor stated.

The HBA has offered several potential solutions to the delays – allowing engineered stamped plans to suffice instead of going through the city’s plan review would likely solve the backlog immediately. Accepting master plans or hiring contract help are good options as well. The HBA said it is open to any other ideas the mayor might have to help alleviate the problem.

The HBA is hopeful that it can work with the city to find a solution to these process delays and will keep its members apprised of any changes in regard to the plan review process as they happen.