Much needs to be done in New York to keep the state competitive with other areas¬particularly in the development of new buildings and housing. Construction costs here are often not in line with other communities and that takes its toll on our economy.
There is little doubt that a more uniform approach to building and fire codes across the state would be more cost-effective and efficient¬so long as any statewide standardized approach keeps a high level of safety and structural security. While years ago New York building codes were far ahead of the country, today our failure to adopt a national code puts us at a disadvantage with many regions of the country. This is not an issue of safety.
Beyond the building codes themselves, the process for meeting zoning requirements and obtaining building permits also needs to be examined. In many neighboring parts of the country, land can be made shovel ready for construction in less than nine months. As new construction booms, the paperwork process for housing, warehouses, factories and offices takes much longer than other areas. The not-in-my-backyard protesters are one part of the problem. At the same time, local governments are often burdened with so many applications that the processing grinds slowly under the load of those seeking building permits. And too many agencies are involved. There is a crying need for better one stop shopping in the process.
These thoughts are not intended to prompt disregard for our environment, traffic, or scenic beauty. They are to say that we must find a way to intelligently speed up the steps for new construction without overlooking the importance of a community's quality of life. For our region and state to become more competitive, we must make changes. Taking three and four years to make land ready for construction makes no sense when a company can move to another state and be ready in less than half the time. Delay in processing also, it is estimated, adds some 10 percent to the price of construction on Long Island. Housing is hardest hit due to taxes and interest being paid by the developer waiting for approvals. We all end up paying when development is delayed.
Local governments cannot be expected to keep staff on board when there are ups and downs in construction cycles. Therefore, consideration should be given to charging fees to developers as a way to allow builders to fast track projects. The fees could cover the cost for temporary government employees to expedite the flow of paperwork.
Another approach would be to consolidate the process. Today, three levels of government and multiple agencies at many levels create a built-in mechanism which promotes inefficiency. One stop shopping can make as much sense in development as it does in going to a supermarket to purchase food.