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Serafini presses House panel to pass bill to speed up SHA permit process

Delegate also presents bill asking SHA to grant permits for certain signs in a right of way

February 21, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Del. Andrew A. Serafini urged a Maryland House panel Tuesday to pass his bill forcing the State Highway Administration to act more quickly on permit applications.

Serafini told the House Environmental Matters Committee about complaints of the SHA causing unnecessary delays in some Washington County development projects.

“We have to do better,” he said, charging that large businesses avoid Maryland because of its bureaucratic red tape.

His bill would require SHA to act within 90 days after getting a request for a permit to access a state road. Otherwise, the permit would be granted.

Testifying against the bill, Steven D. Foster, the chief of SHA’s Access Management Division, said the agency has a very high rate of issuing timely permits — as long as the applications are complete.

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According to a Department of Legislative Services analysis of the bill, the SHA issued 98 percent of permits within 45 days in 2011.

State Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, filed a similar Senate bill, but withdrew it after meeting with Foster and getting a commitment that SHA would continue to improve.

Serafini said he’s willing to amend his bill, if the committee or SHA had suggestions to improve it.

“Frequently, we have been a holdup, yes, but more frequently, it’s been some other party,” such as local government or an engineer delaying a permit, Foster said.

Serafini also presented a bill on Tuesday calling for SHA to grant permits for certain signs in a right of way.

The bill was prompted by Agape Pet Services on Md. 34, between Boonsboro and Keedysville.

Owner Peter W. Anderson told the committee that the business is in a wooded area, well back from the road, so the public doesn’t know it’s there without a sign.

However, a 150-foot right of way prevents the business from legally placing a sign that’s easily seen from the road, he said.

Martin L. Harris, the state legislative officer for the Maryland Department of Transportation, which includes SHA, urged the committee to vote against the bill, but said the department is working on a fair solution.

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