by Geoff Fox
County officials approved a memorandum of understanding last week with the Town of Hancock to take over the building and code enforcement permitting and inspections within the town’s limits.
The Washington County Commissioners unanimously approved the MOU at their September 10 meeting.
Last Tuesday, Town Manager Joe Gilbert, along with Director of Construction Rich Eichelberger and Director of Planning Review and Permitting Ashley Holloway went before Washington County Commissioners asking them to approve the town’s request.
Eichelberger said the town had requested to re-establish the county providing the permits and inspections, which it had done for a number of years prior to 2017.
Right now, the town issues building permits with the permit holder submitting permit fees to the town and inspection fees to a third party inspector.
Eichelberger told county officials the resolution was approved by the mayor and town council of Hancock and the MOU was vetted by the county’s attorney’s office.
“This would be a savings for the town of Hancock residents by forgoing any additional inspection fees and really the only alternative would be for the town to continue the services as they are provided today,” Eichelberger said.
Holloway said the town would still be handling the zoning approval for any building in town limits.
“Once the customer has zoning approval from the town, then they can come to my office and apply for their building permit,” Holloway said.
When asked how many permits Hancock has done in the last year or six months, Gilbert estimated he’s handled 12 to 15 since he was hired in April.
While the Division of Planning Review and Permitting can handle the influx of new permits from Hancock, Holloway said his division would have to undertake some internal changes to the permitting system.
His chief of permitting has already put those changes in motion.
“We are definitely on top of that,” Holloway said.
Eichelberger anticipates the county will take over the permitting around October 1.
“We think we can make this happen fairly quickly but it would be something that we wouldn’t be able to start tomorrow,” Eichelberger said.
Eichelberger said since county inspectors already service the areas around Hancock outside the town limits, it wouldn’t add a burden on his staff.
Hancock residents would still have drive down to Hagerstown to apply for the permit, Eichelberger said.
“Daggone it you’re gonna make all them mad driving the whole way down here for a permit,” Commissioner Randy Wagner said, drawing smiles and chuckles.
Eichelberger said the change back to a county-based permit process will make Hancock fall in line with Williamsport, Funkstown, and Sharpsburg.