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Recognition

After state delays, Caledonia looks to expedite development plan reviews

SAFEbuilt partners with Caledonia, WI to review commercial plans for anticipated developments in the village.

CALEDONIA — After running into delays at the state level, the Village of Caledonia is considering giving permission to a private company to review commercial plans for anticipated developments in the village.

Tom Lazcano, Caledonia’s public works director, said that it often takes three months for the state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services to approve commercial building plans, which can slow down development in the village. However, construction can’t legally begin until plans have been approved either by the state or by a “delegated agent.” Still, all commercial development plans have to be reviewed “to ensure compliance with Wisconsin laws and regulations,” according to DSPS.

“We’re getting complaints from people once a month now saying, ‘Can you speed this up?’ ” Lazcano told Legislative and Licensing Committee members and village trustees at a Dec. 10 meeting.
At that meeting, the committee recommended approval for an amendment that would allow a “delegated agent” to conduct plan reviews, in addition to the state’s reviewers. The measure is planned to go before the Village Board tonight.

SAFEBUILT

Lazcano said that he wants the village to start working with SAFEbuilt, a Colorado-based company with an office in Pewaukee that already reviews plans for the cities of Kenosha, St. Francis and Sturgeon Bay, in addition to about a dozen other Wisconsin municipalities.
Lazcano said that SAFEbuilt has a reputation for returning reviewed plans in less than two weeks, one-sixth the amount of time the state takes, and it isn’t any more expensive than having the state conduct reviews. He added that state officials have actually recommended municipalities work with delegated agents like SAFEbuilt because of the “backlog of work” currently slowing down state-employed reviewers and inspectors.
If the amendment is approved by the Village Board, developers will have the option to either submit their Caledonia plans to the state or to SAFEbuilt for review. Lazcano hopes to have SAFEbuilt reviewing commercial plans for the village by the end of January or beginning of February.
Some Wisconsin municipalities do their plan reviews in-house, including Milwaukee and Cudahy, but Caledonia doesn’t have that capability.
Safebuilt offers some other services — including building, electrical and plumbing inspections — but Lazcano said Caledonia isn’t interested in using SAFEbuilt for anything other than plan reviews.

BOARD RESPONSE

Village Trustee Dave Prott liked the idea, although he and Trustee Kevin Wanggaard were nervous about potential liability if SAFEbuilt erroneously approves a building plan that isn’t safe or up to code.
“As long as we have a good solid contract with some indemnification language in there … then these are all good, positive things for Caledonia,” Prott said, upon reviewing the proposed amendment.
“There are limits on liability (for the village),” Village Attorney Elaine Ekes explained, “as long as things are done (by SAFEbuilt) within the standard code review.”

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