By Dan Moffett

How to simplify Briny Breezes’ often complicated building permit procedures perplexed Town Council members as they considered a contract renewal for the town’s building services provider during their Aug. 23 meeting.

Three council members — Christina Adams, Bill Birch and Kathy Gross — balked at rehiring C.A.P. Government Inc. to handle building inspections and plan reviews.

Adams complained that too often residents had to “keep going back” to officials to satisfy what seemed to be changing permit requirements. Birch, an architect, said residents were confused by what often appeared to be excessive inspection demands. Why couldn’t one multilicensed inspector handle one small project? Gross questioned the use of “stop order” notices on projects that might not even require permits.

Council members cited recent frustrations over efforts to rebuild the water fountain at the town’s western Cordova Avenue entrance as evidence of the need for simplification — too many permit requirements, too many inspection requirements, too much confusion.

Carlos Penin, president of C.A.P., a 29-year-old company that provides inspectors and plan review specialists to 45 municipalities around the state, told them his employees were bound by the Florida Building Code. He said C.A.P. doesn’t make the rules and neither does the town.

Town Manager Dale Sugerman conceded that Briny Breezes has a building approval process that is inherently inefficient. “Because Briny is truly unique,” he said.

Briny Breezes’ hybrid makeup — part corporation, part town — adds a layer of bureaucracy other municipalities don’t have. Sugerman said the process is further complicated by Briny’s five districts that weigh in separately on projects. “There are five different districts with five sets of rules,” he said. “It’s convoluted.”

Sugerman said the key for improving the process is to improve plan reviews so that all requirements are made clear early on, before work begins.

Penin said his staff would be willing to put on a workshop to educate residents about what his company does and improve communication. The council accepted his offer, with a date to be determined.

“We look forward to improving what needs to be improved together,” he said. 

Adams, Birch and Gross were persuaded and joined Council President Sue Thaler in approving C.A.P.’s contract extension through the next fiscal year. (Alderman Chick Behringer was absent.)

The council first hired C.A.P. in 2016. The town pays the company 75 percent of permit fees collected and $60 an hour for code enforcement. CAP employs 180 people in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and on the Gulf Coast.

In other business, state officials have officially recognized Briny’s estimated population as 610 people, probably the all-time high.

Since January, Sugerman has lobbied the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida to use counting methods from the 2010 census, when the population was set at 601. Several years ago, the estimate fell to 420, because of a methodology change.

Getting a higher estimate is important because it increases the town’s revenue-sharing amount of state money. 

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