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One-stop shopping in works for Planning and Development

LAWRENCEVILLE - A move to place code enforcement officers in the Police Department isn't the only shake-up for Gwinnett's Department of Planning and Development.

After undergoing an efficiency study, officials are transferring stormwater and transportation inspectors to the department.

Along with the attempt to create a "one-stop shop" for developers seeking permits, officials are also working to assign case managers to projects and eventually allow plans to be electronically submitted to the county.

"The essence of what we do is customer service, and we need to be customer-service friendly," County Administrator Jock Connell said.

While all the inspectors who worked on permitting were located at One Justice Square, near the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, the personnel worked in separate departments, including transportation, water resources and fire.

The study found the bad communication between departments left developers feeling the system was "too slow" and "broken," Planning and Development Director Glenn Stephens said.

All the inspectors will now be placed in Stephens' department, although inspectors in the Fire Marshal's Office will report to the planning and development department while remaining on the Fire Department's roster.

Stephens is working to restructure management of the department, and focusing efforts more on speed, including switching from a specialist format for building inspectors to more of a generalist idea. That way, plans would not be delayed when a specialist was on vacation or absent from work.

According to a new state law, counties must review building plans within 30 days or allow developers to hire their own inspectors. Stephens said the county is turning over plans within its own 14-day guideline.

While Stephens said county engineers would no longer work to redesign plans, he pledged to continue the strict enforcement of county codes.

"It's our obligation to make sure we're submitting a good product," said Michael Paris, director of the Council for Quality Growth. "But I really think they're heading in the right direction. It's the right time to do it."