The York County Council will meet with county staff this evening to discuss ways to foster a "more business-friendly environment."
York County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell requested the meeting to discuss complaints he's heard from businesses working with the county. The meeting is open to the public.
All employees in the county engineering and planning and development departments were asked to attend because these departments interact with the public the most, Blackwell said.
Builders and developers are upset over the time the approval process takes and unexpected requirements that crop up along the way, he said.
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"We hear complaints," Blackwell said. "The system's too complicated. It's too time cumbersome. It's not user friendly."
Builders and developers have said that waiting on feedback from the county takes a long time or that when they get feedback, they must then make corrections.
"Developers feel like they're nit-picked to death," Blackwell said.
Blackwell said the meeting's purpose is not to criticize any employee, but "so the staff can hear the council's perspective on how the policies should occur. I think it's so important that we hear the council's perspective on these policies.
"When members of the business community or citizens in general call up and say they're not being treated fairly, we're going to look into it," Blackwell said, adding every story has two sides.
County staff and the council need an "open line of communication," where they can discuss ways to make things better, Blackwell said.
County Manager Jim Baker said a meeting between the full council and employees is unusual, but he doesn't think any concerns will come up regarding the council addressing staff, who answer to Baker, not the council.
Baker encouraged the council earlier this year to contact staff directly with questions.
"I'm not anticipating that it's intending to be any direction to staff," he said of the meeting. "I'm anticipating that it's going to be a dialogue."
County Engineer Mark Kettlewell said he recently met with a builder who wanted to know how the county could speed up stormwater permits for residential lots.
Kettlewell said one thing that hurts his department's efficiency is the county eliminated about 20 positions two years ago. Seven positions were from the Engineering Department and one was a "designated lot reviewer for erosion and sediment control for permitting."
That employee's job was to review residential lot permits.
"We now have one plan reviewer that reviews commercial lots, residential developments, and individual lots," Kettlewell said.
Dave Pettine, planning and development director, said his department has improved plan reviews and addressing customer concerns in the last year.
Finding ways to "have less touches on a permit" is one way they've become more efficient, he said.
"(But) there's a reason we go through the process we do," he said. It is not to overburden builders or developers, but to fulfill the county's obligation to look out for the public and ensure compliance with the law.
Pettine said he holds his employees accountable to keep things moving at an efficient pace and address complaints.
He asks his staff "to be more compassionate about what folks are trying to get done - we don't take that lightly."