Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On Friday’s KGVO City Talk Program, the featured guest of City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam was Walter Banziger, Deputy Director of Community Planning, Development, and Innovation.

Banziger oversees all the building inspection, business licensing, code compliance, zoning, and land use review and permit coordination.

City Talk Featured Zoning and Building Permit Discussion

Banziger responded to a misconception that it’s taking longer to get permits approved than in the past.

“I meet with the developers in the contractors once a month we have a monthly meeting where we talk about how the process is working and where we can make improvements,” began Banziger. “We rolled out a new residential checklist to ensure that the people who are submitting the permits know what to give us so that the process goes faster.”

Banziger specifically challenged the popular notion that it’s taking longer for building permits to be issued.

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Banziger Challenged the Notion that Permits are Taking Longer

“We did a study actually, because I've heard that a lot,” he said. “The perception is that things have gotten slower over the course of time. But I was actually surprised when I did the study with our team, we have this (computer) program that everything goes into and it monitors how long things are in there and how long it takes. It's examining efficiency and surprisingly, we look all the way back to 2017 and that our processing times since 2017 have not changed even though our volume has gone up by three times.”

Banziger said his department has been processing a much higher number of building permit requests.

“Basically in 2018 and 2019, we were seeing an average about 400 to 500 building permits per year,” he said. In 2021, it went up to 1,400 almost, and then last year it was about 900. We're on track to be at about 800 something this year as well. For residential permits, we've been tracking about eight to 10 weeks for an average turnaround, and for a commercial about 12 to 14 weeks.”

Why is there New Security at City Hall?

One caller was upset about the relatively new security system at City Hall, where each visitor must speak with a security officer before being allowed inside the building. Communications Director Ginny Merriam explained that the new policy was in response to city employees who were concerned about people bringing guns into City Hall.

“I'll tell you honestly, the reason why we have security at the front door of City Hall is that the legislature changed the laws, not in this previous session, but in the session before, to allow people to bring guns into government buildings. That was during COVID, and we had most of our staff working remotely. We needed people to come back to work, and people were afraid to come back to work with just somebody freely being able to come into City Hall with a gun.”

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