On July 1, 2013, Prince George’s County officially opens its newest department, the Department of Permitting, Inspections & Enforcement (DPIE). This 280-person agency combines under one roof the staff and functions that support the authorization and regulation of building, site, road, and utility permits and building licenses which drive the local economy and ensure the health and safety of County residents, businesses and visitors. DPIE used organizational transformation, process streamlining, technology enhancement, space reconfiguration, and performance measurement and reporting to create a national model for administering the economic development functions of permitting, plan review, construction inspection, code enforcement and business licensing. Driving the vision for DPIE is the recognition that the County has significantly underperformed these functions for many years.
Over the years, Prince George’s County has gained a reputation for having one of the most complicated, time-consuming, and costly processes for the issuance of permits and approvals for economic development and redevelopment in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Various stakeholder groups have noted the following concerns regarding the County’s permit processing, construction inspection, and code enforcement functions:
- Lengthy permitting process times
- Fragmented authority/responsibility among multiple agencies
- Functional redundancy and duplication of effort
- Inconsistent plan reviews and resulting rework
- Inefficient manual and paper-based processes
- Numerous locations of responsible agencies
- Weak code enforcement of property standards
- Long time to get justice for code enforcement nuisances
For example, there are nine County, bi-county, and state agencies that collectively perform these functions at several locations disbursed across the County and the City of Baltimore. The following lists these nine agencies and their geographic locations:
- Department of Environmental Resources (DER) - Largo
- Department of Public Works & Transportation (DPW&T) - Largo
- Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department - Largo
- Health Department - Largo
- Office of Law – Upper Marlboro
- Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) – Upper Marlboro
- Soil Conservation District (SCD) – Upper Marlboro
- State Highway Administration (SHA) – City of Baltimore
- Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) - Laurel
Those seeking building or site development permits currently come to the Permits Center located in Largo, a so-called one-stop-shop for permit intake, walk-thru plan review, and issuance services. However, the Permits Center has representatives from only three of the participating agencies, including DER, DPW&T, and M-NCPPC. These personnel are co-located in a cramped space on the top (sixth) floor of Inglewood Centre III. In addition, various inspection and code enforcement staffs are scattered among the respective agencies.
These concerns tarnish the County’s image with both the development community and individual homeowners seeking to build new facilities, improve existing facilities, or revitalize commercial districts and neighborhoods. This situation undermines efforts to revitalize the County’s economy and provide the resulting benefits of increased jobs, tax revenue, and community renewal. Despite its favorable proximity to the core of the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan region and its relative abundance of developable land and transportation accessibility, Prince George’s County continues to fall behind neighboring jurisdictions of Montgomery County, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia in competing for economic development investment.
During his campaign, County Executive Rushern Baker heard a lot about how complicated the permitting process was and how much of a barrier the process is to business and his administration’s priority to make a change. With input from the transition team, industry, the community, and county staff, DPIE was born.
Introduction to DPIE
Recognizing the linkage between customer service and customer satisfaction, the Baker Administration has embarked on a major initiative to revamp and modernize the entire regulatory oversight program for economic development in the County. In October of 2012, the Prince George’s County Council approved an Executive Order calling for the creation of a new department named the Department of Permitting, Inspections & Enforcement (DPIE). This new department is scheduled to begin operations on July 1, 2013. It will combine functions which significantly impact economic development and redevelopment across the County, including:
- Permit processing
- Plan review
- Construction inspection
- Code enforcement
- Business licensing
The vision and mission statements for this new department are as follows:
- DPIE Vision - DPIE consolidates at a single location the various functions associated with the County’s regulation and approval of economic development and redevelopment projects within the County and positions the County as national model for permit processing, code enforcement, business licensing and environmental stewardship.
- DPIE Mission - To promote economic development and redevelopment in Prince George’s County and protect the health and safety of County residents, businesses and visitors through highly integrated and efficient permitting, inspection and licensing services that ensure compliance with established building codes and property standards.
The overall goals for the new department include:
- To create a high-quality, customer-friendly experience for permit applicants, licensees, and property owners.
- To deploy more fully-integrated, technology-enabled and streamlined processes to more efficiently and effectively perform project permitting, construction inspection, code enforcement and business licensing functions.
- To simplify the permitting, inspection, enforcement and licensing functions and make them more timely and predictable for all stakeholders.
Legacy of DPIE
As a result of implementing DPIE, the County’s permitting, inspections, enforcement and business licensing functions will be more:
- Focused and forward thinking;
- Customer friendly and convenient;
- Predictable and consistent; and
- Efficient and responsive.
This institutional consolidation and transformation will make Prince George’s County a more desirable place to locate and expand businesses and develop and redevelop residential properties. By making the County more attractive to residents, businesses and the development community, this in turn will help create the jobs, tax revenues, and amenities the County deserves.
DPIE will be a signature achievement of this administration, positioning Prince George’s County as a national leader in fostering economic development consistent with environmental stewardship. The enduring legacy of DPIE will be increasing and lasting economic benefits to County residents and businesses by streamlining the regulatory framework that guides economic development in the County.
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