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Moore County Home Builders Association

P. O. Box 912,
10022 NC HWY 211 E.
Aberdeen, NC  28315

Moore County Home Builders Association
Moore County Home Builders Association

(910) 944-2992

Moore County Home Builders Association Moore County Home Builders Association Moore County Home Builders Association Moore County Home Builders Association

Moore County Septic permit approvals

County, MCHBA begin process to improve septic permit approvals

Moore County officials agreed Wednesday to work closely with MCHBA to improve wait times for septic permit approvals.

More than a dozen MCHBA contractors met with the heads of the planning, public works and health departments along with the county manager and chief septic inspector to discuss difficulties they’re having getting timely approvals.

County officials say the current average wait time for approval is about four weeks. Several contractors said the delays — sometimes as long as 6-8 weeks — are pushing construction start times back so far that customers are getting frustrated.

“There was a time not too long ago when approvals were taking a week to 10 days,” said Colin Webster, president of The Ascot Corporation. “But the time to get septic approvals has steadily gotten longer.”

County environmental health specialist and chief septic inspector Bill Dunlop said there are several factors leading to the current delays, including the health department having three open positions and increased requirements from lenders to inspect septic designs in existing homes before approving a mortgage.

“The additional inspections that banks and the Veterans Administration are now requiring on systems for existing homes are really adding to our load,” Dunlop said.

Dunlop also said often, the inspector arrives at a new home site and the property is not ready for inspection, including having lot lines not clearly marked, which is a prerequisite for doing an inspection. Some contractors agreed.

“We definitely have a responsibility to make sure the lot is ready when you arrive,” Bob van Houten, president of BVH Construction, told Dunlop. “We need to better educate our builders about the need to be fully prepared.”

Health Department director Robert Wittmann said building has picked up in the county and they need to hire positions that have been intentionally left vacant since 2013, but the new FY 2018 budget doesn’t include money to hire them. Wittmann said they plan to include money for the positions in the FY 2019 budget.

“Building goes through slower times and peak times,” he said. “We have to hire for the average time, and sometimes approval times are going to slow down in peak times.”

The county is currently advertising all three open positions and has some prospects, Wittmann said. But he could give no definite time frame for when the positions may be filled.

“We don’t hire trainees,” Wittmann told the contractors. “We only hire inspectors who have experience, because we find if we hire young people, train them and they leave for a bigger area, that training is wasted.”

The county agreed to consider hiring additional environmental specialists temporarily for peak times, but said finding qualified soil scientists on a part-time basis is very difficult. Wittmann said recent retiree Charlie Griggs has agreed to come back temporarily to help alleviate the backlog.

North Carolina law allows contractors to hire private, legally licensed soil scientists to design septic systems for county approval at any time. Once the completed application is submitted, the county has 15 business days to approve the permit. If not approved in that time, the permit is automatically approved.

The contractor will pay the private engineer their fee, and pay 30% of the normal permit fee to the county. In return, the contractor knows the time frame in which their permit will be approved. The private engineer must accept all liability for any system they design that the county approves.

County manager Wayne Vest said he and Wittmann will craft a plan to get approvals done in a more timely manner. Contractors and the county agreed that a 7-10 day approval period should be the goal.

Vest will provide the plan to MCHBA executive officer Warren Wakeland when it’s complete, hopefully no later than July 21. Wakeland will provide it to the contractors for their input.

The plan will include the 7-10 day period, as well as an additional line on the permit application for the contractor to notify the county when that particular project is set to begin. This will let the county know if there is need to prioritize an inspection so that construction can move forward on time.  

While the county is hiring more personnel, contractors who need timely approvals are encouraged to hire their own engineers so they can begin work without further delay.

“This was a highly productive meeting,” Wakeland said. “We know the county is short-staffed, and the county knows contractors need to proceed more quickly. We both agree we need to avoid this problem in the future. We look forward to reviewing the county’s plan and crafting a long-term solution that works for everyone.”

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    Moore County Home Builders Association

    Moore County Home Builders Association

    Moore County Home Builders Association
    P.O. Box 912
    10022 NC Highway 211 East
    Aberdeen, NC 28315
    Phone: 910-944-2992