Maine DEP Shows Significant Improvement In Land Development Permit Processing Times

June 19, 2012

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Director of Communications samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov / (207) 287-5842

-The environmental department has reduced the time it takes to issue a new development permit while still ensuring its review provides environmental protections that safeguard Maine’s air, land and water and applicants acknowledge they appreciate the improvements-

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has delivered on its promise to improve the timeliness and predictability of its permitting process, showing meaningful reductions in the time the agency took to issue land development permits in 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, compared to 2010.

Improving the timeliness of permit processing while still ensuring all applicable environmental regulatory requirements are addressed was central to the LePage Administration’s commitment to making Maine more business friendly when it took office 17 months ago.

Thanks to an improved focus across the agency on the value of a timely turnaround, redeploying additional staff to licensing units as demand dictates, increased communication between the department and applicants including through pre-applications meetings and expanded technical assistance, DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho says the department has been able to make meaningful gains in processing time in all of its three bureaus, most notably in its issuance of new permits for land development, which lead to infrastructure investment and job creation.

“Land permits provide the path by which responsible development can be carried out in accordance with our state’s balanced environmental regulations and best protective practices. A timely, pragmatic and predictable permitting process sends the message that Maine is open for business and the jobs and investment in our state business brings,” Commissioner Aho said. “I am proud of our staff for rolling up their sleeves to get this work done more efficiently while still upholding the highest quality of review and in doing so, ensuring that Maine has a robust and sustainable economy and a strong and healthy environment.”

In 2011, the DEP’s 22-day average processing time for a permit from the Bureau of Land and Water Quality’s Division of Land Resource Regulation was 8 percent faster than the previous year, when it took an average of 24 days to get a permit.

If the processing time for streamlined permit-by-rule applications is not included in the calculations, the averaging processing time for permits related to land development projects has dropped 24 percent from 70 days in 2010 to 53 days in 2011.

It took DEP an average of 64 days to reach a decision on 259 Site Law applications in 2010 and 47 days for 244 applications in 2011; an average of 71 days to reach a decision on 566 Natural Resource Protection Act (NRPA) applications in 2010 and 56 days for 598 applications in 2011; and an average of 60 days to reach a decision on 84 Stormwater Management Law applications in 2010 and 45 days for 81 applications in 2011.

Average processing times for all land permit categories in the first three months of 2012 show meaningful decreases from 2010, though in some cases like Site Law and NRPA, are slightly slower than 2011 averages. DEP data analysts point to seasonal variations in applications received that make it difficult to compare averages from a three-month quarter with those from an entire year and say they anticipate that end-of-year averages taking into account 12 months of data for 2012 will continue showing improvement over past years given internal process changes.

Applicants acknowledge and say they appreciate the improvements.

“Working with the DEP on our expansion project was much easier than I anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it went,” said Kevin Nelson, vice-president of operations at Mid-State Machine Products, which recently received a land permit for an expansion at its Winslow plant. “From the timely site inspection to the quick meeting date for the application review, all went without a hitch. I expect our expansion to be completed on time with DEP’s help. This addition will allow us to house five new machining centers and create a minimum of 15 new, good-paying jobs with excellent benefits.”

Michigan-based Chris Kettler, co-owner of seven Tractor Supply Company stores in Maine, said he noticed a shift in customer service at the DEP starting in January of 2011 when he applied for permitting for his sixth store in Houlton.

“Although we think there is still room for improvement on the turnaround time, we got our permit in half the time as our previous five projects,” Kettler said, adding that the permitting process was also improved for their seventh store, which opened recently in Windham.

“It’s important for people to understand what a timely turnaround actually means for everyone involved,” he said, explaining that many municipalities require DEP project approval before they’ll put the project on a local planning board agenda or issue permits. “This creates timing nightmares for developers and other applicants that can delay construction for four to six months depending on the season. To get our permits from DEP quicker means municipalities will begin to collect taxes earlier, local contractors in the area will go to work earlier and 12-15 employees of the Tractor Supply Company store will be employed earlier.”

In total among its three bureaus, between Jan. 1, 2011 and May 15, 2012, the DEP issued 6,231 licensing decisions, 72 percent of which were made in 15 days or less and 77 percent in 30 days or less.

For more information about getting a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/permits or for assistance in figuring out what permit your project may need or for step-by-step permitting guidance, contact DEP’s Office of Assistance toll-free assistance hotline at (800) 789-9802 or visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/assistance

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