State Auditor’s Office releases report on performance audit of City’s 120-day permitting process

April 2, 2024

Vancouver, Wash. – The Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO) has released a final report on their year-long audit of selected cities and counties, including Vancouver, to assess compliance with the state requirement for a 120-day maximum review timeline for development applications.

The SAO worked closely with city staff to review permit data for land use, engineering and building applications. Overall, the report shows that the City of Vancouver has performed well against the 120-day review requirement over the past four years. Land use applications were reviewed within 120 days 96% of the time, while building permit applications were reviewed within 120 days 93% of the time. 

The SAO report also highlights areas where improvements can be made for Vancouver to fully comply with state law. These include:

  • Publishing all required performance data annually.
  • Creating a policy and procedures for extending the 120-day timeline. 
  • Implementing continuous improvement practices in development review processes.

“We thank the State Auditor’s Office for its report and appreciate the information shared in it. We largely agree with their findings and are pleased that the City of Vancouver performed well against the 120-day review requirement over the past four years,” said Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s Director of Community Development. “We are already taking steps to address areas identified for improvement by the auditor’s office.”

Those steps include publishing review timeline data for 2023, developing a policy for extending the 120-day timeline and considering shorter internal review timelines for public works projects.

The audit was conducted in accordance with the Growth Management Act, which mandates that fast-growing counties and cities develop comprehensive plans and regulations for growth management. One key aspect of this is timely and fair permit processing to ensure developers and builders can accurately predict the time needed to obtain permits for construction projects.

The SAO report also notes that changes to the state law regarding the 120-day permit review requirement will go into effect in 2025. These changes include the elimination of applicant time for making revisions from the overall timeline, shortening the maximum review time for smaller projects and removing the 120-day review requirement for building and civil engineering permits. The City of Vancouver plans to address these changes locally – in part – through amendments to the City’s Land Use and Development Code.

The SAO has also committed to scheduling annual meetings with all of the jurisdictions audited in order to monitor their progress towards meeting state requirements.

The full SAO report can be accessed on their website at www.sao.wa.gov.

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