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Salem moves to change building permit process

SALEM — For the third time in a decade, town leaders will attempt to change the process for notifying the public about permits issued by the building department.

The new process should help streamline the building process and help avoid delays for those seeking permits, according to Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin.

“Currently, we have a requirement in our building ordinance that the building inspector has to publish a notice of a permit in a newspaper of general circulation in Salem at least five days before issuing a permit,” said Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff. “The proposal to revise that states that the building inspector, within three days of granting a permit, will post a description of the location and nature of the construction in two public locations, one of which will be the town’s website.”

Moldoff said the town has tried to pass a similar measure twice in the past 10 years.

“Both efforts were rejected by the voters, but we’re going to try again,” said Moldoff.

At a public hearing on the amendment, resident Betty Gay asked why the notice was going to be given after the permit was already issued.

“What good is that if someone has a problem?” she asked.

Moldoff said that even after a permit is issued, residents still have 10 days in which to file an appeal of the building inspector’s decision.

“The reality is that that does not happen,” said Moldoff. He said that it could happen, but that over the past five years, no one in the building department can recall an appeal of an issued building permit.

Goodwin noted that the proposed change will allow building to take place in a more timely manner.

“The delay in the building permits of five days only slows down and delays people,” said Goodwin. He added that under state statute, the town is not required to give public notice of the building permits.

Planning Board member Ron Belanger was the sole board member to vote against advancing the planning amendment to the March 11 town election ballot. He said he would like to see the town keep the building permit notice process the same as it is now, including publishing the notices in the newspaper.

“I don’t think it hurts,” he said. “It lets citizens be informed about what is going on in the town of Salem.”

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